Thursday, November 30, 2006

ACLU-Acceptable Nativity Scene?

From the Young Conservatives of Texas:

AUSTIN, TX – The Young Conservatives of Texas - University of Texas Chapter announced today that they will be displaying an “ACLU Nativity Scene” on the West Mall of the University of Texas campus on Monday and Tuesday, December 4th and 5th. The group’s intent is to raise awareness on the extremity of the ACLU, and bring to light its secular-progressive efforts to remove Christmas from the public sphere. The display, the first of its kind in the nation, will feature characters that are quite a bit different than the standard crèche.

“We’ve got Gary and Joseph instead of Mary and Joseph in order to symbolize ACLU support for homosexual marriage, and of course there isn’t a Jesus in the manger,” said Chairman Tony McDonald. “The three Wise Men are Lenin, Marx, and Stalin because the founders of the ACLU were strident supporters of Soviet style Communism. The whole scene is a tongue-in-cheek way of showing the many ways that the ACLU and the far left are out of touch with the values of mainstream America.”

The scene will also display a terrorist shepherd and an angel in the form of Nancy Pelosi.

I heard on the electric radio that there is no baby in the manger because of the abortion. I hope Gary doesn’t arrive riding on a donkey – PETA will protest such degrading treatment of our fellow creatures.

Away in a closet
Behind a locked door
The little Lord gathers
More dust on the floor.

Don't dare mention Jesus
lest you cause a fuss;
you'd better get used to

Ancient Faith Faces Uncertain Future

The article below was written by John Kass in The Chicago Tribune for Nov. 26, 2006. Very few people in the West truly understand what’s at stake in the conflict with militant Islam. Our brothers and sisters in the East, however, have few illusions.

Imagine the Vatican surrounded in a fiercely secular yet very Muslim Italy.

The Christian community there has dwindled to only a few thousand after decades of ethnic cleansing. Much of the church's property has been seized. The government has closed the only seminary and refuses
to reopen it.

A law has been passed: Any future Roman Catholic pope must be born on Italian soil, even though there is no seminary to train the young priests, even as the Christian community shrinks to a handful. A cold shadow falls on the Western church.

I asked you to imagine this because it's going on, right now, but not in Rome.

It is happening in Istanbul, where Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, patriarch of Constantinople and spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Church, is facing extreme pressure by the Turkish government.

This week, Pope Benedict XVI will travel to Turkey and pray with Bartholomew, and witness the liturgy in the Church of St. George.

The focus will be on the pope relying on the patriarch to help make inroads with Muslims, after comments the pope made this year about violence and Islam.

But I hope his visit will also draw attention to the desperate plight of the Orthodox Church, which has been largely ignored. There are an estimated 250,000 Orthodox Christians in the Chicago area, enough, you might think, for attention to be paid, especially now.

The pope will hear the liturgy as it was sung more than a thousand years ago, when there was only one church, before the split into East and West.

"They will exchange the kiss of peace, and they will bless the people, and they will recite together the `Our Father' in Greek, the original [scriptural] language," said Archbishop Demetrios, leader of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, who will lead the American delegation.

"Then the two of them will go out to the elevated balcony, if you remember it, and bless the people who will be gathered in the courtyard," the archbishop told me.

I do remember. I was there, at St. George, at the patriarchate this past summer, watching the baptism of my nephew. We had the honor of visiting with Bartholomew, who said with a smile that he reads the Chicago Tribune online.

Obviously, I have strong, personal and religious feelings about this and can't pretend otherwise, yet I mean no disrespect to Turkey or to Islam.

The streets in that quarter of Istanbul are narrow. The bus stops at the bottom of the hill. You walk past a few shops, on up, and eventually, through the gates of the compound.

Once there, you begin to realize how central the patriarchate has been to Christianity, dating from about A.D. 300, when the Gospels of the New Testament were being selected, and later, when the Nicene Creed, a statement of faith recited by Catholics, Orthodox and other Christians, was created before the schism.

That the media ignores the patriarch's plight is astounding and hurtful to me. As is the realization that all that history could be gone if things don't change in Istanbul, in what was once called Constantinople, the heart of the Byzantine Empire.

At the patriarchate, one of the exterior doors is never opened. It has remained closed since 1821, when Greece fought for its independence from the Ottoman sultans, and the patriarch then was dragged out and hanged from that very doorway.

Today, Turkey is a fascinating, wonderful place, worthy of American tourism, worthy of American respect.

The people are friendly and hospitable, and the history is astounding. The Blue Mosque, the Topkapi Palace, the ancient covered market, still thriving. That it has remained a nation is testament to the intense will of Kemal Ataturk, founder of the modern secular Turkish state, which now must deal with growing Islamic fundamentalism.

All of this is important for Americans to grasp, as the West realizes, finally, that ignoring Islam is impossible.

For me, it was especially important to visit Hagia Sophia, literally, the Church of Divine Wisdom, the ancient domed structure that was turned into a mosque when the Turks took Constantinople in 1453.

It is an immense structure, larger even than its copy, St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, and is nearly 1,500 years old.

There, I thought of the worshipers fearfully singing the liturgy as the city walls were breached, as the slaughter began, as a Christian empire that had stood for more than 1,000 years perished.

Most icons were destroyed, but you can see the Virgin Mary on the wall near what had been the altar. A sign prohibits religious observance, but the guards don't stop you from praying.

Pope Benedict is also scheduled to visit Hagia Sophia, now tersely referred to as a museum.

As he visits there, the news images may be sent around the world to remind us of what was, and how what little is left is slipping away.

At the end of World War 1, the Christian population of what is now Turkey was between 4 and 5 million - mostly Greek Orthodox or Armenian. The population is currently estimated at about 30,000. Some left; but more than two million were massacred in the first genocide of the Twentieth Century. Welcome to the future.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Feast of the Enunciation?

I miss the Weekly World News! It stands head–and-shoulders above the rest of the tabloids for sheer exuberance and hilarity. Other tabloids waste their time and efforts on Brangelina and Brittany Spears stories, while WWW sticks with the straight "news" of alien cab drivers and three-headed chihuahuas.

At various times, I have purchased subscriptions to WWW for my old lab boss, so it would come proudly addressed to his faculty mail box, and for one of the Major Consulting Firm partners so it would be delivered in his name to the front desk at the office.

Rediscovered last spring on the antiquities 'grey market,' the apocryphal Gospel of Stephen is rewriting Christian tradition in hundreds of churches around the world.

"It gives us a whole new picture of how the angel Gabriel told Mary she'd one day give birth to Jesus Christ," said Father Peter Emmel.

Now thousands of faithful, in nearly all Christian denominations, will celebrate the feast of the Biblical 'Enunciation,' in which the Virgin Mother asked Gabriel if he could please repeat his announcement.

Christians usually celebrate the angel's declaration on March 25th of each year. The new Enunciation feast will also be observed on the 25th, but a few minutes later, during a second course nearly identical to the first.

According to Father Emmel, "priests will lead their congregations in prayers of penitence. Then the congregations will beg for pardon, and the mass will be repeated."

Some Church leaders oppose the changes. But Father Emmel and other proponents of the new Gospel note that the Enunciation was in fact known - and embraced - by many Church authorities in antiquity.

"El Greco even painted a version of the Enunciation in 1574, with the angel Gabriel supporting a golden trumpet against Mary's ear," Father Emmel said.

Mary is famously associated with several other mishearings in the Christian religion, notably the common garbling of the Christmas Carol "Silent Night," misheard by many to describe the Blessed Mother as "Round John Virgin."

The rediscovery of the Stephen Gospel may help explain this quirk of the Christian faith - even as the new gospel transforms the religion with impressive speed.

"I've christened five childen 'Enunziata' already," said Father Emmel. "Things have never changed faster."

The Dan Brown novel will no doubt be following shortly, as well as a symposium on “Lost Christianities” at the Episcopal Seminary. God bless us everyone.

Elves and Grinches for 2006

This year’s “Naughty and Nice” list of corporate Christmas elves and grinches is out from Liberty Counsel.

Among the grinches are:
  • Banana Republic - Web site has "Holiday Gift Guide" with no mention of any Christmas.

  • Bed Bath & Beyond - No mention of any holidays.

  • Barnes & Noble - Web site says Gift guide, Holiday gift baskets, Holiday sled, Holiday delivery but NO Christmas. Physical stores not allowed to put up Christmas trees, employees not allowed to say Merry Christmas.

  • Best Buy - Web site says "Unique gifts for the season," "Holiday gift ideas." Spokesperson said they consider the use of "Merry Christmas" to be disrespectful.

  • Dick’s Sporting Goods - Web site says gifts and has images, but no mention of Christmas.

  • Eddie Bauer - Customer service would not recognize Christmas, they "don’t want to offend Jews, those who celebrate Kwanza and those who have no religious preference."

  • Gap - "Holiday Survival Guide" no mention of Christmas.

  • Home Depot - Web site says Holiday Store and Holiday lighting and only at bottom of site says "Make your Christmas decorations complete." Physical store has Holiday Home Accents.

  • K-Mart - Selling "Holiday trees" and "Holiday wreaths."

  • Lowes - In 2005, Lows stated they would modify their ads and no longer say things such as "Holiday trees", however, their Web site has Holiday Living department and Holiday gift cards. Will not allow employees to greet customers with "Merry Christmas".

  • Mills Fleet Farm - (WI, MN, IA and ND) Changed their Christmas Catalog to "Toy and Gift Catalog", replaced Christmas signs with "Holiday" signs. No mention of Christmas at all.

  • Old Navy - Web site has "Holiday Gift Guide," "Holiday gift boxes" but no Christmas.

  • Petsmart - Has a Holiday Shop, and Luv-a-pet ornaments.

  • Toys ‘R’ Us - No mention of Christmas. "...Toys ‘R’ Us aims to be neutral in this regard... We endeavor to make our stores festive, while respecting that our customers celebrate many different customs throughout the holidays."

The elves:
  • Dillard’s - Advertising their Christmas Catalog.

  • JC Penney - Web site has their Christmas shipping countdown.

  • Joann Fabrics - Offers Christmas and Holiday fabrics.

  • Kohl’s - Christmas is all over TV, print and radio ads.

  • L.L. Bean - Advertising and distributing their Christmas Catalog.

  • Linens ‘N Things - Has a Christmas Shop and Christmas Checklist.

  • Macy’s - "Merry Christmas!" on the homepage of their Web site.

  • Michaels - Web site has a Christmas section.

  • M&M-Mars Candies - Will have red and green candies with pictures of Christmas trees and angels among other images.

  • Target - Web site says Christmas Decor, though the physical store has Holiday entertaining. End of television ad says "Merry Christmas".

  • Wal-Mart - Has a Christmas Shop, plays Christmas carols, and employees can say "Merry Christmas."

  • Sears - Stores have signs that say "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Holidays" although Web site just says "holidays".

I confess, when someone wishes me “Happy Holidays,” I usually respond, “Really? Which one?”

It’s not my place to tell you where to spend your money. As for me, however…

You Always Knew it was True

From The Daily Mail (UK):
It is something one half of the population has long suspected - and the other half always vocally denied. Women really do talk more than men.

In fact, women talk almost three times as much as men, with the average woman chalking up 20,000 words in a day - 13,000 more than the average man.

Women also speak more quickly, devote more brainpower to chit-chat - and actually get a buzz out of hearing their own voices, a new book suggests.

[…] In The Female Mind, Dr Luan Brizendine says women devote more brain cells to talking than men.

And, if that wasn't enough, the simple act of talking triggers a flood of brain chemicals which give women a rush similar to that felt by heroin addicts when they get a high.

Dr Brizendine, a self-proclaimed feminist, says the differences can be traced back to the womb, where the sex hormone testosterone moulds the developing male brain.

The areas responsible for communication, emotion and memory are all pared back the unborn baby boy.

[…] There are, however, advantages to being the strong, silent type. Dr Brizendine explains that testosterone also reduces the size of the section of the brain involved in hearing - allowing men to become "deaf" to the most logical of arguments put forward by their wives and girlfriends.

But what the male brain may lack in conversation and emotion, they more than make up with in their ability to think about sex.

[…] Studies have shown that while a man will think about sex every 52 seconds, the subject tends to cross women's minds just once a day, the University of California psychiatrist says.

Dr Brizendine, whose book is based on her own clinical work and analyses of more than 1,000 scientific studies, added: "There is no unisex brain.

"Girls arrive already wired as girls, and boys arrive already wired as boys. Their brains are different by the time they're born, and their brains are what drive their impulses, values and their very reality.

Before anyone tries to hurt me, I am only quoting the source.

It is fascinating how the reporter feels compelled to use her article to take shots at guys, whose brains are “pared down,” making them “deaf to the most logical of arguments.” It is also a fascinating – and really sad - commentary on our society that it’s considered newsworthy to suggest that men and women might actually be intrinsically different.

The creation story directly implies that man and woman are incomplete by themselves; it takes both to “become one flesh” and form the fully functional unit. Frankly, if I want to know about the human natures of men and women, I think I’ll pay more attention to JPII’s Theology of the Body than to this particular tome.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Hurricane Season Ends and We're Still Alive!

The 2006 Hurricane Season, which will come to its unlamented end on Thursday, has been the quietest hurricane season in a decade. Hard to believe it was only a year ago they were predicting that we’d have hurricanes in Iowa and that everybody on the Gulf Coast was going to die. I feel sorry for all the TV reporters who have been waiting all Fall for their Great Windblown Moment of Fame.

Climate and weather prediction has come a long way since I was a kid, but it still has way too many unknowns and way too few equations to solve for them all. My local forecast is pretty darn good for a week to ten days; the regional forecast is fairly good for a month or two in terms of “hotter, colder, wetter, or drier than normal.” At the worldwide level for a year in the future, forget it. Global warming? Very likely. Caused by humans? Probably, at least in part. You’re gonna tell me when and how much? I’ll believe it when I see it.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Well, At Least I Know Something!

My biochem students will be glad to know I paid attention during high school. Beloved-But Expensive Daughter will be quite surprised.

You paid attention during 100% of high school!

85-100% You must be an autodidact, because American high schools don't get scores that high! Good show, old chap!

Do you deserve your high school diploma?
Create a Quiz

Friday, November 24, 2006

Archbishop of Canterbury on His Way Down?

From The Telegraph (UK):

Dr Rowan Williams's first official encounter with a Pope was a sad affair: he had to lean close to John Paul II in order to decipher his whispers. On being asked how the meeting had gone, he replied: "Well, I won't see him again."

Yesterday's discussions between the Archbishop of Canterbury and Benedict XVI were more lively. The Pope has been transformed. Not only is the role of the pontiff being played, Doctor Who-style, by another man; but that man, Joseph Ratzinger, has also managed to shrug off his own saturnine image and emerge as a beaming pastor with possibly the finest theological mind in the Church.

Moreover – although he offended Muslims by declining to describe Islam as a religion of undiluted love – he has been careful not to rant about bioethics or sex. His view is that Catholics cannot explain what they are against until they do a better job of explaining what they are for.

As for the archbishop, more and more commentators are arguing that he is not the same man who met John Paul II three years ago. In the words of one Church source: "He is so weakened. In 2003 there was only one Archbishop of Canterbury. Now there are effectively three."

Perched uncomfortably on the chair of St Augustine, Dr Williams is constantly aware of two figures on either side of him: his predecessor, Lord Carey of Clifton, and his probable successor, Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York. We do not know whether Dr Sentamu wants the post, but the chances are that he will be offered it, and sooner rather than later.

Clergymen spend a lot of time on the internet, mostly for innocent purposes, such as following ecclesiastical backstabbing. The "Anglican blogosphere" is a rich source of speculation – very well-informed speculation in the case of the blog written by Andrew Brown, Church Times media correspondent. On November 13 – days before Dr Williams got himself into a pickle by implying that the Church of England might backtrack on women priests – Brown wrote: "It is the sensible bet that Rowan will retire, defeated if not broken, after the formal schism at the Lambeth Conference [in 2008], and Sentamu will be his successor."

The idea that Rowan Williams will step down in two or three years' time – a decade before he is required to – is being discussed in many quarters. It was first floated on Ship of Fools, a theological internet chat site, by someone calling himself "Spawn", who also predicted that the coming Lambeth Conference would be the archbishop's swansong. Does Spawn have inside information? He makes no secret of the fact that he is Andrew Carey, son of the previous Archbishop of Canterbury.

Lord Carey had his faults and foibles, but he was theologically pretty orthodox.

Like the Pope, Lord Carey has surprised everyone by reinventing himself. As Primate of All England, he was dismissed as a self-important booby: Captain Mainwaring in a mitre. Since his retirement in 2002, however, he has become "the king over the water" for conservative evangelical Anglicans, who – thanks to mushrooming churches in Africa – now far outnumber communicants of the Church of England.

Carey has done this partly by offering moral support to anti-homosexual Africans and Americans, even to the extent of travelling to Virginia to confirm opponents of Gene Robinson, the gay Bishop of New Hampshire. According to one Sunday newspaper, "a personal feud between the Archbishop of Canterbury and his predecessor has burst into the open" – a claim to be taken seriously, given that the commentator who made it, Christopher Morgan, was Rowan Williams's best man.

I don't know anyone who is "anti-homosexual," whatever that means. A lot of people are against the normalization and active affirmation of homosexual activity, the rejection of biblical and historic Christian teaching, and the ordination of people engaged in active same-sex relationships. Actually, what a lot of people really have a problem with is the idea that the Faith is something to be evolved, rather than something to be nurtured and protected, having been once delivered to the saints.

But, to give Lord Carey his due, he has also developed a knack that eluded him in office: of talking common sense. He was the first senior churchman to attack moderate Muslim leaders for not condemning Islamic suicide bombers "clearly and unequivocally"; this week he criticised the wearing of full-face veils by Muslim women.

Such outbursts fly in the face of every convention governing the behaviour of retired primates. Lord Carey's conservative admirers are not concerned; they continue to regard him as the real Archbishop of Canterbury. But that baton is now about to be passed, over Dr Williams's head, to a prelate whom African conservatives can truly consider one of their own: the Ugandan-born Dr Sentamu, who in his previous incarnation as a judge was a ferociously brave critic of Idi Amin.

Actually, it is not just Africans who look to Dr Sentamu as the de facto leader of the Church of England.

As Brown notes, he has been "anointed" by the tabloid press for speaking out on topics that his boss has sidestepped or overlooked. It was York, not Canterbury, that issued a long-overdue condemnation of the BBC's anti-Christian bias; it was York that attacked British Airways' fatuous ban on employees wearing a cross.

In other circumstances, Rowan Williams could have relied on liberal bishops to come to his rescue. But his equivocation over gay clergy and his private criticism of the calibre of women priests have alienated them.

If Rowan is so clever, they ask, why does he tie himself in rhetorical knots every time he opens his mouth?

Certainly, the archbishop will not have got far if he has tried to play intellectual games with the razor-sharp Benedict, who knows that the pursuit of Anglican-Catholic unity is now a waste of time (and BA jet fuel). And he also probably knows – since he has an impressive network of spies in England – that the archiepiscopate of Rowan Williams is itself a lost cause.

This time, it may be the Pope's turn to say: "Well, I won't see him again."

Frankly, I no longer care who the Archbishop of Canterbury is, and am glad of the fact. I am far more interested in rumors that Benedict XVI may be interested in developing an Anglican Rite under the umbrella of Catholicism.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thanksgiving, Anno Domini 1621

An account of the first Thanksgiving, from Edward Winslow, dated December 12, 1621.

Our corn [i.e. wheat] did prove well, and God be praised, we had a good increase of Indian corn, and our barley indifferent good, but our peas not worth the gathering, for we feared they were too late sown. They came up very well, and blossomed, but the sun parched them in the blossom. Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.

And we whine and caterwaul about our difficulties in procuring a new X-Box. For these, and for all our failings, Gracious Lord, have mercy. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Most gracious God, by whose knowledge the depths are broken up, and the clouds drop down the dew; We yield thee unfeigned thanks and praise for the return of seed-time and harvest, for the increase of the ground and the gathering in of the fruits thereof, and for all the other blessings of thy merciful providence bestowed upon this nation and people. And, we beseech thee, give us a just sense of these great mercies; such as may appear in our lives by an humble, holy, and obedient walking before thee all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all glory and honour, world without end. Amen.

What the heck is going on in Philadelphia today (see previous post)? I’m appalled that the two principles would engage in this behavior; I am appalled the parents feel the need to seek advice about it; I am really appalled that Fr. McBrien doesn’t have a stronger response regarding the priest’s behavior

Dear Amy: Our 24-year-old daughter has declared to us that she is in love with a 50-year-old Catholic priest. She says that he has told her that he loves her, too, though she doesn't know if he would leave the priesthood for her.

I threatened to call the bishop and tell him what is going on, but my daughter works at the diocesan office, where she met this priest, and she says that I could get her fired.

My husband and I have told her how disturbed we are, but she says that his affection, support and attention are important to her. She ignores our concerns.

Are we right to distrust him?

Should we confront him?

- Anonymous

Dear Anonymous: I shared your letter with the Rev. Richard McBrien, professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame. Father McBrien and I agree that your daughter has a right to mess up her life by falling in love with the wrong person.

McBrien says, "The daughter is an adult and needs to work this out on her own. However, the parents have every right to offer their advice. But they should do nothing beyond that. We may be dealing here with irresponsible behavior but surely not criminal behavior."

McBrien adds, "I am not defending the priest, and I agree that it is probably a dead-end relationship. If the priest is her superior, then this relationship is also unethical. This young woman needs to talk with a professional counselor who could help her to work this thing out in her own mind. The parents, however, lack the necessary objectivity, even if their concerns are valid and they are only looking out for her well-being."

Though I'm not a Catholic, I am a parent and I disagree to an extent. The Catholic Church has had some very public issues lately with priests violating the trust that people have placed in them. First you need to figure out what outcome you want from all of this, and then I think you should consider notifying the church hierarchy regarding this particular priest, though if he isn't your daughter's supervisor, then he is probably violating only his own vows and not workplace rules. If you choose to notify the church about this, do so in writing.

“But they should do nothing beyond that???” Say what? Someone who is supposed to be a shepherd of the flock is (apparently) boffing one of the sheep, and everyone is supposed to sit back and let them work it out own their own? While they both work in the diocesan office? While he’s 50 (my generation again – quelle surprise) and she’s 24? Where the heck are the other clergy? Where the heck is the bishop? Why hasn’t this guy been reassigned as third assistant chaplain and fry cook at some supermax prison in the Aleutians? Where did I put my blood pressure medication? God, have mercy.

Give grace, O heavenly Father, to all Bishops and other Ministers, that they may, both by their life and doctrine, set forth thy true and lively Word, and rightly and duly administer thy holy Sacraments. (1928 BCP, From the prayers bfore communion)

Man Shoots Himself in Back of Head While Handcuffed

A man who was stopped for a routine traffic violation somehow managed to shoot himself in the back of the head while handcuffed in the back seat of a police cruiser, cops said.

A police source said Oliver Neal, 26, was stopped on Moore Street near 28th, South Philadelphia, shortly before 1 a.m. yesterday and was found to have four packets of cocaine and two packets of marijuana in his possession.

After the drugs were found, police spokesman Capt. Benjamin Naish said, Neal was placed in the back seat of the police car. He said the officers were not inside the car with Neal.

Okay, I tend to be a very right-wing, gun-toting, pro-law-enforcement, I-pay-taxes-for-you-to-shoot-bad-guys sort of fellow. This, however, might just call for a wee bit of investigating.

A Defense of Lemmings

This article, by Ashley Sanchez in response to Sir Elton John, comes from (of all places!) The Austin American Spaceman Statesman. That is rather like finding a story on “Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf, General and Hero” in Al Jazeera.

A defense of lemmings is required. Sir Elton John's words, reprinted in the American-Statesman on Nov. 12, were still fresh in my mind as I sat in the church pew: "Organized religion doesn't seem to work. It turns people into really hateful lemmings, and it's not really compassionate."

The Gospel reading that day was about the widow who gave her last two coins to charity. The priest reminded us to follow her example, and then he turned the pulpit over to two missionaries.

Those two lemmings have followed Christ right into poor villages in Guatemala and Mexico. They have built schools and clinics and fed the hungry.

"Not really compassionate?" The missionaries asked for our help, explaining that $500 (likely a fraction of the entertainer's lavish weekly budget) will provide a village family clean drinking water from a rainwater collection system installed at their home.

Not really compassionate? I suspect that many lemmings in the congregation that day followed Christ right into sacrificial giving, knowing that even if they can afford to give only $20, when 25 others do likewise, they will be giving water to the thirsty.

Not really compassionate? The empirical data prove otherwise. A report from the Independent Sector titled "Faith and Philanthropy: The Connection Between Charitable Behavior and Giving to Religion" found that in 2000, people who supported only secular charities donated an average of $623 annually, whereas those supporting only religious congregations gave $1,154. The most generous givers, however, were those who supported religious congregations as well as secular charities, averaging $2,247 in donations. Indeed, "over 87 percent of all giving comes from households that give to religion."

Similarly, religion provides powerful motivation to volunteer not just at church, but in the community as well. The same report found, "The small group of people (8.6 percent of the population) who volunteer to both congregations and secular organizations accounts for over 30 percent of all volunteering hours."

Not really compassionate? Jewish, Hindu, Muslim and Christian lemmings can proudly recite their forebears' accomplishments that have made the world a better place - algebra, architecture, passive-resistance and impressive scholarship.

Lemmings are followers of their deity, but they are also leaders - fighting ignorance (churches and monasteries offered some of the only safe havens for scientific knowledge during the Dark Ages), slavery and racial oppression.

Yet for all the good that has come from these faiths, the Inquisition and Sept. 11 are evidence that religion and its followers aren't immune from evil.

Therefore, could banning religion (a move urged by Elton John) rid the world of horror? Not according to the evidence. Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin was responsible for a death toll estimated in tens of millions. Stalin's atrocities and those of Mao Tse-Tung and Pol Pot occurred in regimes in which religion was officially repressed and atheism was promoted.

So why, pray tell, are some celebrities and intellectuals committed to attacking religion and trying to prove it false?

Part of the answer lies in their belief in their Supreme Self: I consult only myself and believe only I know what's right for me.

Yet their hypocrisy betrays them.

What they really seem to say is "Religion is wrong not just for me, but for everyone else, too."

When they seek to impose their beliefs on the rest of us, we must oppose their narrow-minded judgment and appeal for tolerance (that is especially true at this time of year when the word "Christmas" or the sight of a crèche causes some folks to call for an inquisition).

Which is scarier - people claiming to know truth because they consulted themselves, or those who seek truth from religions that have grappled with the thorniest questions of morality and life's meaning in conversations spanning millennia? Although we should properly debate religious teachings, it's not possible to do that with people who myopically see only religion's flaws.

Indeed, even when religious leaders explain their teachings in terms of natural law and science, those who disagree with them sometimes inaccurately accuse them of relying on blind faith.

Let's debate the individual issues without making preposterous claims that condemn all aspects of religion.

The evidence is irrefutable: In this country, lemmings who worship Allah, Yahweh and Christ are more likely to give time and money that make the world a better place.

That is compassionate.

A recent book by Arthur C. Brooks of Syracuse University, titled Who Really Cares illustrates empirically what Ms. Sanchez describes anecdotally. Religious conservatives in America are the ones who support charities, while secular liberals talk a lot more but actually give far less – in everything from money to volunteer hours, to blood donations. Speaking from a personal level, a lot of the secularists I’ve met see themselves as anointed heroes whose job is to tell the rest of us what to do. Most of the conservative Christians I know (I don’t know many members of other faiths at the same level) see themselves as rescued sinners, obligated to help rescue others.

By the way, how can the Brits place “Sir” Elton in the same bunch of people as, say, Sir Winston Churchill and Sir Isaac Newton? What’s next? Sir Benny Hill? Shame on them.

One minor correction to Ms. Sanchez’s article: the death toll of Communism was in 9 figures, not 8 figures. The uncounted dead of the bloody Twentieth Century were largely sacrificed on altars to atheism and personality cults.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Britain to Doctors: Kill or be Prosecuted

Excerpted from an article on LifeSiteNews:
In a statement yesterday Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor of England has warned doctors that they may face prison sentences if they refuse to starve and dehydrate patients to death. Criminal charges of assault could be laid against doctors or nurses who refuse to allow patients to die, even by removal of food and hydration tube.

The Labour government unveiled its new guidelines for doctors to follow the Mental Capacity Act that is to come into effect next spring.

The guidelines instruct doctors that a patient’s “advanced decision,” what is often called a “living will,” that includes a request for cessation of medical treatment must be followed even if it means the patient will die. To fail to do so, in other words, to take action to keep a patient alive, could result in criminal charges or heavy fines.

The government’s guidelines instruct doctors, “If you are satisfied that an advance decision exists which is valid and applicable, then not to abide by it could lead to a legal claim for damages or a criminal prosecution for assault.”

British courts, in conjunction with jurisdictions around the world, have determined that it is sometimes in the patient’s best interest to be dehydrated to death by removal of feeding and hydration tubes. In many parts of the world, including Canada, food and hydration is considered “medical treatment” and as such can be, and frequently is, withheld on the grounds that it constitutes “extraordinary treatment”.

This was the thinking that allowed the court-ordered killing of Terri Schindler Schiavo in 2005.

Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director of Canada’s Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, warned that the Act is a means of installing “euthanasia by omission.” Schadenberg says the Act allows for the intentional killing of patients who would not otherwise be dying by withholding food and fluids or other ordinary medical treatments.

And that’s the whole point. It’s one thing to withhold treatment; it’s another thing to withhold food and water. One is allowing someone to die naturally; the other is killing. If one removes the hospital setting, the differences become more obvious. If you are lost on a desert island and your friend gets bitten by a snake, you and he may decide not to cut off his arm (i.e. withhold treatment); you’re still going to give him food and water. We don’t require soldiers to kill in violation of their consciences. As a matter of fact, the Nuremberg trials spelled out that “following orders” is not a valid defense. Requiring a physician to kill is unconscionable. Somewhere (probably somewhere warm), the spirit of Hitler is laughing hysterically. I think the Brits may need to offer an apology to the SS.

A Lost Tribe Returns (?)

From The Scotsman:
A group of 51 Indians who claim to be descendants of one of the ten lost biblical tribes were on their way to Israel last night, in what is viewed by their supporters as a fulfillment of prophecy.

They were converted to Judaism in India by rabbis after Israel's chief rabbinate last year recognised about 7,000 people from the remote north-eastern states of Mizoram and Minapur who claim ancient Israelite ancestry through belonging to the Bnei Menashe, one of the ten tribes that were lost after being exiled by the Assyrians in 586BC.

[…] The Indians' Jewish practices were observed after 1953, when a holy man from a remote village in Mizoram said the Holy Spirit had appeared to him in a vision, to explain that the Christian tribe he belonged to were actually the children of Menashe, son of the biblical Joseph, and that God instructed them to return to what he determined to be their previous religion, Judaism and to their homeland, Israel.

Some researchers say certain practices involving animal sacrifice were similar to ancient Hebrew traditions, while an ancient song among one tribe talked of crossing the Red Sea.

The tale of how the community's ancestors supposedly came to India's north-east - sandwiched between Bangladesh and Myanmar - is grand in its historical sweep but short on scientific support. Exiled from ancient Israel by the Assyrian empire around 730BC, the tribe was apparently forced east and travelled through Afghanistan and China before settling in what is now India's north-east.

On the way, they forgot their language, their history and most of their traditions.

[…] An Orthodox rabbi who has spent the last half century searching for descendants of the lost tribes is the man who "discovered" the sons of Menashe.

His quest to bring the lost tribes back to Israel began in 1979, when Eliyahu Avihayil was shown a letter sent to a friend from India, from a group calling itself "the Jews of north-east India".

"I decided to find out who they are," Rabbi Avihayil said.

"Within two years I held that they belonged to the tribe of Menashi."

Among the clues that he took to be telltale signs, he said, were traditions resembling those of the ancient Israelites, including having places of refuge for those who had killed someone by mistake.

Rabbi Avihayil said his research revealed that the descendants of Menasseh also practised circumcision, albeit with sharpened flint rather than a knife.

[…] By Rabbi Avihayil's estimate, there are tens of millions of descendants of the lost tribes of Israel living in Japan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, Thailand and Burma.

If these people can return to Orthodox Judaism after (according to the good Rabbi) having forgotten “their language, their history and most of their traditions,” perhaps there is hope that Liberal Protestants, who have forgotten the same things, can return to Orthodox Christianity.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Young People in Developed Countries are the Most Unhappy

From Reuters:
Young people in developing nations are at least twice as likely to feel happy about their lives than their richer counterparts, a survey says.

Indians are the happiest overall and Japanese the most miserable.

According to an MTV Networks International (MTVNI) global survey that covered more than 5,400 young people in 14 countries, only 43 percent of the world's 16- to 34-year-olds say they are happy with their lives.

MTVNI said this figure was dragged down by young people in the developed world, including those in the United States and Britain where fewer than 30 percent of young people said they were happy with the way things were.

Only eight percent in Japan said they were happy.

Reasons for unhappiness across the developed world included a lack of optimism, concern over jobs and pressure to succeed.

In developing countries a majority in the same age group expected their lives to be more enjoyable in the future, led by China with 84 percent.

"The happier young people of the developing world are also the most religious," the survey said.

Religious people tend to have a realistic appreciation of the world and their place in it, as well as a sense of the reality of Providence. Thos without faith tend to see themselves as either (a) being on their own, or (b) helpless in the face of a capricious world. In either case, the world becomes a rather scary place.

[…] Young people from Argentina and South Africa came joint (sic) top in the list of how happy they were at 75 percent.

[...] "In developing countries, economic growth is on the go ... so you could see that logically there should be optimism and a positive feeling," Bill Roedy, the President of MTVNI, told Reuters.

For crying out loud! The American economy is booming! The Bush tax cuts pulled us out of a deep recession; unemployment is at an all-time low; the market is breaking records almost daily. Are the “youts” unhappy because no one is knocking on their dorm room doors to make them CEOs of Fortune 500 companies at the age of 21? Can anyone say “whiners?”

Developed countries were particularly pessimistic about globalization, with 95 percent of young Germans thinking it is ruining their culture, while developing countries which tended to be more receptive to globalization were also more optimistic about their economic future and more proud of their nationality.

MTVNI said one of the trends they spotted was that young people with access to mass media tended to feel less safe as they did not have the cognitive skills to interpret real risk.

In the UK, more than 80 percent of 16- to 34-year-olds said they were as afraid of terrorism as they were of the getting cancer - though the latter was far more likely to hurt them.

I think part of the problem is that young people in the West have little experience of the certainty of death. All young people tend to think they’re immortal; nowadays, many tend to believe they have a right to immortality, or at least to their three-score-and-ten. Most have grown up in a world of unprecedented safety, with little disease, little conflict, little daily hazard, and an unending stream of media images that imply The End is right around the corner. Reality, of course, is neither. None of us is guaranteed tomorrow, but aren’t we fortunate that the probability is that we’ll see it? Most people in history had far less assurance than we do. Throughout most of history, one’s next illness might very well be one’s last, and the average man had to walk around armed for protection.

I hope I’m wrong, but I can’t help but think our privileged time is coming to an end. What are these pampered pets going to do when bullets start to fly? I hope most will rise to the occasion, but many are likely to come unglued.

Good for Nicaragua!

From LifeSiteNews:
On Friday, the President of Nicaragua, Enrique Bolanos signed into law a bill eliminating the "therapeutic abortion" exception in the Criminal Code.

The new law eliminates a loophole that allowed an unborn child to be killed if three doctors certify that a woman's "life or health" is at risk. The so-called "health" exception terminology has been severely abused in some countries to allow virtual abortion on demand.

The new law also ends the permission to abort a child conceived in rape. Pro-lifers argued that the innocent child conceived in rape should not receive the death penalty for her father's crime.

United Nations officials representing UNICEF and UNFPA and diplomats representing several Western Governments including Canada, the EU, Sweden, Finland and Norway attempted to pressure Nicaragua against the legislation.

Pro-life activists around the world sent letters of encouragement to the President.

The legislation reached the president's desk after passing the National Assembly on October 26 by a vote of 52 in favor, 0 against, with 9 abstentions.

The Third World continues to lead the First in matters of basic morality. Funny how those who one might expect to be least able to support their children embrace them, while those who can most afford them will trade them off for a large-screen TV.

The UN, of course, continues to stand firmly on the side of big screen TVs. I can hardly wait for their Millennium Development Goals to be implemented.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Quote of the Week

From Benedict XVI, in a speech to the German Cardinals, translated from the German by Sandro Magister, comes a major-league slapdown of the modern Western world.

"We Christians should not be afraid of the spiritual encounter with a society that conceals behind ostensible intellectual superiority its perplexity in the face of the ultimate existential questions."

A society that conceals its perplexity behind a facade of intellectual superiority...badaboom, badabing.

Brave New World Revisited?

From LifeSiteNews, with a tip of the gimme cap to FreeRepublic:
A pro-life trend among conservative Protestants is picking up steam in the US, Newsweek reports. In 1995, David and Suzanne Bortel of San Antonio, Texas developed a website called to lend support and encouragement to couples who are totally open to as many children as God gives them. Under the name of Quiverfull, the group encourages its members to reject all forms of birth control and welcome children as "a gift and blessing from our gracious heavenly father."

[…] Members of Quiverfull reject not only birth control but also Natural Family Planning, a natural method and one condoned by the Catholic Church as a moral way, under serious circumstances, to avoid conception by abstaining from sexual intercourse during the fertile periods of a woman's monthly cycle.

Quiverfull's beliefs also do not condone any form of artificial conception, such as in-vitro fertilization. Mary Pride, a Quiverfull believer and author of the book, 'The Way Home', says, "You shouldn't be unnatural in going to a fertility clinic or in trying to avoid having children by regulating when to have sex with your husband."

[…] Rejection of birth control is a growing trend among many denominations of Protestants. Many Protestants who previously espoused birth control methods, are becoming more and more alarmed by the contraceptive mentality that has overtaken the country. In today's society, sex and procreation of children are commonly viewed as two separate components of marriage. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is very convicted and outspoken on the subject. He says, "If a couple sees children as an imposition, as something to be vaccinated against, like an illness, that betrays a deeply erroneous understanding of marriage and children."

Brad Wilcox, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Virginia thinks that a possible reason for the trend is that evangelical Protestants are uniting with Catholic leaders on other moral issues in today's society. He says, "The increasing cooperation of Catholic and evangelical leaders on abortion and same-sex marriage has allowed some cross-pollination where evangelical leaders are starting to become familiar with Catholic thinking on the family."

Speaking for myself, my beliefs on this have come full circle. When I was a kid, I just accepted Catholic teaching on the matter. As I got older and “converted” to the agnosticism of personal self-indulgence, I concluded the whole thing was a crock. As an Episcopalian, I was “reasonable” in my opinions. Now, as a fortunate survivor of liberal Protestantism by the grace of God, I can’t help but think the Church was right all along. I look around me and see the results of a contraceptive culture: the disconnect between sex and procreation that results in the abandonment of traditional morality, the dissolution and redefinition of the family, birth rates below the replacement level and the accompanying social problems, children viewed as possessions or trophies, or alternatively, children being overly pampered as the doted-on one-and-onlies of aging and increasingly sterile parents.

In 1930, the Anglican bishops meeting at the decennial Lambeth Conference voted to permit the use of contraceptives by married couples – the first such pronouncement ever by a Christian church. Two years later, the infamous agnostic, Aldous Huxley, published a book which prophesied what the bishops could not see - the structure of a society committed to the contraceptive ethic. That Brave New World has proven to be a remarkably shallow world as well.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Neanderthals Genetically Almost Identical to Modern Humans

From Yahoo News:
Researchers have sequenced DNA from the leg bone of a Neanderthal man who died 38,000 years ago and said on Wednesday it shows the Neanderthals are truly distant relatives of modern humans who interbred rarely, if at all, with our own immediate ancestors.

[…] The researchers reported their findings jointly in the journals Nature and Science.

[…] Neanderthals and modern humans are both descended from Homo erectus, which left Africa and spread around the world about 1.5 million years ago.

Neanderthals lived in Europe and the Middle East until about 30,000 years ago. Cro-Magnon people, the ancestors of modern humans, started a second wave of migration out of Africa about 10,000 years earlier.

One huge question is how closely they interacted. Paabo's and Rubin's genetic analysis both suggest there was little sexual contact, at least according to the genes from this one male found at the back of a cave in Croatia.

[…] They said the Neanderthal sequences are 99.95 percent identical to human DNA sequences. This compares to about a 98 percent similarity between humans and chimpanzees, who split from a common ancestor 6 million to 7 million years ago.

As a scientist and a Christian, I have never found a real intellectual problem between organic evolutionary theory (as opposed to “popular evolution”) and the historic, orthodox Christian faith. My question about this discovery is, at 99.95% DNA similarity, how long before they start demanding we clone Neanderthal embryos for stem cells?

For that matter, assuming we could get intact DNA, how long before we start growing them as slaves?

BXVI to Meet ABC

Diogenes comments on the upcoming meeting between the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and Pope Benedict XVI. I know when I'm out of my league - any comment I might add would be superfluous.

In terms of a shamelessly gratuitous waste of jet fuel, few events can rank with next week's visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury to speak with the Pope. The sole positive outcome will be the entertainment value provided by the exquisitely atrocious gifts primates manage to exchange on such occasions; indeed the theological ingenuity of both men will find no outlet apart from that devoted to this occasion of mischievous one-upmanship. Look for Dr. Williams to give Pope Benedict a framed photo of Katherine Jefferts-Schori executing a barrel-roll in her Piper Cub, and to come home with a six-pound replica of the Los Angeles cathedral in white chocolate.

Genuine dialogue is an impossibility. We can expect the usual swapping of mandarin compliments and the usual emphasis on the achievements of common ecumenical endeavor ("both our faith traditions oppose needless cruelty to animals and credit card theft ..."). As for resolution of the doctrinal problems, the Marylebone Cricket Club and the NBA will merge before progress is made on this front.

Making Up History in America

Sad, from WorldNetDaily:
The politically correct version of American history has Apollo 8 astronauts reading from "an ancient religious text" and a photo editor busy making alterations to reality for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, according to WND readers.

There was considerable outrage expressed – but little surprise – from WND's series of articles this week on efforts to edit America's history to eliminate references to Christianity, and Christians.

The series detailed how
guides at the U.S. Supreme Court say the frieze representation of a stone tablet represents the Ten Amendments, instead of the Ten Commandments, and how guides at Jamestown say the settlement was founded for business interests, and how Monticello guides announce that Thomas Jefferson was a strict deist who dedicated his life to keeping the separation of church and state.

Now come responses from WND readers, who note the problem extends far beyond a few guides at a few historic sites.

"While I was in the Smithsonian Air and Space museum, I was reading a placard regarding the trip of the Apollo 8 flight, which looped around the moon on Christmas Eve," wrote Paul Hardy. "They showed a photo of the Earth from the moon, and the placard said (and I'm not kidding, you can read it yourself), 'the astronauts had brought an ancient religious text with them and began to read, 'In the beginning, God created heaven and earth…'' AN ANCIENT RELIGIOUS TEXT? Why is it that they couldn't even say the BIBLE, as everyone knows what that is. My only surprise was that they actually printed the word 'God' on the placard. My wife and I laughed at this PC silliness."

However, he noted the "history" of the Bible, in which God repeatedly lets alone a people who abandon him. "He will not allow this country to do this and still stand free," he wrote.

[…] "The current story on the U.S. Supreme Court reminded me of how the Ten Commandments were purposely blurred out of a photo of Pennsylvania Supreme Court judges in an official brochure last year," he said.

[…] "Every part of the frame is clear and in focus, except for the words of the Ten Commandments. They electronically blurred out that portion of the photograph!" wrote Family Institute President Michael Geer.

"Apparently, those words are simply too offensive to be published in the same photo with Pennsylvania's Supreme Court Justices!" he said. The photograph was from a free brochure handed out by the court, he noted.

Rob Hajicek told WND he had been visiting Boston during a recent outing to historical locations, and there was little eventful until a tour of the downtown Boston area began, and the tour guide announced that the Puritans were just an earlier version of the Taliban.

"Basically what he shared was that the town of Boston loved riots, and John Hancock, as the richest man in the area, was paying men to do these things," he said. Essentially, "the people who fought at Bunker Hill, Lexington, Concord were displaced people who left Boston because English soldiers took their jobs."

Do the people that run these places actually believe the postmodern claim that. operating from a position of power, they can impose their own metanarrative on the world? Perhaps they can get away with it for a while – perhaps long enough to destroy the nation. But do they actually believe they can make up their own “truth” and have it stick permanently? Absolute truth remains absolute, whether anybody believes in it or not.

In Luke 18:8, Jesus asks, “when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?” The implication is that, even if no one in the world follows Him, He will still be coming back. Whether anybody knows it or not, the Commandments remain the Commandments, Jefferson was a slightly oddball but dedicated Christian (go look at the quotes on the Jefferson Memorial), and the Puritans were a bunch of fairly decent, somewhat radically Calvinistic, Christian people who actually enjoyed their fun.

If we don't write the truth about history, then those who replace us will.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Perils of a Life of Crime

This article from The Wichita Eagle has absolutely nothing to do with any normal topic on this blog, but it was screaming “Blog me!”

Maybe it was karma.

Three men attempted to kidnap a teenager in a dispute over stereo speakers shortly before 4:45 p.m. on Monday, Wichita police reported. One of the three pulled out a gun and fired it at the teen in the 1000 block of South Wichita.

The shot missed the teen. But then the shooter jammed the gun back into the waistband of his pants and it went off.

The bullet struck the 23-year-old man in his left testicle, causing him to cringe - which caused the gun to fire again.

The second shot struck him in the left calf.

Police did not release information about the size of the gun he was using at the time.

The wounded man walked into Via Christi Regional Medical Center-St. Francis Campus seeking treatment, police said, and was later booked into the Sedgwick County Jail on suspicion of aggravated assault and aggravated attempted kidnapping.

His companions, ages 18 and 20, were arrested for aggravated attempted kidnapping and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Maybe it was karma? I don’t believe in karma; maybe it was just dumb. I sometimes think that the only thing that keeps civilization going is the fact that the barbarians are such morons.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Pleasant Surprise From the Catholic Bishops

My goodness! Who would have thought? Bishops got spines!

From (New Joisey Jersey), via Catholic World News:
American Catholic bishops will vote today on a document that urges lay Catholics not to receive Communion if they reject church teachings on birth control, abortion and the divinity of Jesus.

[…] The 19-page document applies to all lay people, not just politicians. If approved today as expected at the bishops' annual fall meeting, it could resonate in a country where polls indicate the vast majority of married Catholic couples use birth control and where most Catholics believe abortion should be legal.

[…] The Communion document, titled "Happy Are Those Who Are Called To His Supper: On Preparing To Receive Christ Worthily in the Eucharist," does not tell priests or bishops to reject people at the altar rail just because of unorthodox beliefs.

Instead, it calls on lay Catholics to determine beforehand whether they are properly disposed to receive the sacrament.

Communion is the heart of the Catholic Mass, a sacred rite by which Catholics experience Jesus. Catholicism teaches that priests can consecrate bread and wine to become the actual body and blood of Jesus. Unworthy receipt of Communion is viewed in the Catholic Church as a grave sin.

No kidding. See 1 Cor. 11:27. One of the ironies in the Episcopal Church revolves around the Eucharist. First, they made it the center and standard of worship, pretty much eliminating the use of Morning Prayer.on Sunday mornings. Then, they diluted all meaning from it by opening it to anyone who was baptized, whatever their beliefs about its meaning, and more recently to pagans and members of other religions. If it can mean whatever you want it to, then it really has no intrinsic meaning of its own!

[…] Bishops have worried that too many Catholics view Communion as a private act when theologically it is a public one meant to unite believers.

"Holy Communion is not simply a private devotion," Serratelli said. "When I receive Communion with this person, I'm saying I'm in union with this church, that I believe what this church says. I don't think a lot of people see that. They think, 'When I go to Communion, it's me and Lord.'"

The document says people "with honest doubt and confusion" about church teachings should try to better understand the faith and even seek guidance from a pastor.

They are encouraged to continue receiving Communion "as long as they are prayerfully and honestly striving to understand the truth of what the church professes and are taking appropriate steps to resolve their confusion and doubt."

But, the document continues, "If someone who is Catholic were knowingly and obstinately to reject the defined doctrines of the church, or knowingly and obstinately to repudiate her definitive teaching on moral issues, however, he or she would diminish his or her communion with the church. Reception of Holy Communion in such a situation would not accord with the nature of the Eucharistic celebration, so that he or she should refrain."

Bishops are well aware that American Catholics commonly ignore or reject central church teachings. A document distributed at the bishops' meeting cited a survey indicating only 4 percent of married Catholics of child-bearing age follow church guidelines against contraception. Asked whether he thought the Communion document would help change their minds, the Rev. Thomas Reese said, "Do the survey in 25 years. If 4 percent goes up to 25 percent, then they've had a very successful document."

But Frances Kissling, president of the liberal group (People Who Claim to be) Catholics for a Free Choice, which opposes a wide array of church teachings on sexuality, said: "They're gonna save a lot of money on wafers if people listen to this."

How unspeakably crass. What they might actually save is a lot of nails from being pounded into the flesh of Christ and a lot of people from compounding one sin with another.

[…] Serratelli, though, said he was not worried by the prospect of many people deciding, in the end, that they disagree with church teachings and to stop receiving Communion.

"If you reject ... a teaching that is fundamental to Catholics," he said, "the real question is, then, Why would you want to take Communion? Because Communion itself says, 'I am part of this church and I embrace what it believes.'"

Bingo! As a baptized Christian who believes pretty much everything the Catholic Church teaches, insofar as I understand it, but who is a member of another church and therefore not “in communion,” I would never dream of disrespecting the Lord, the Church, or myself by trying to cheat on the matter.

The Unintended Consequences Begin to Appear

Well, yahoo. It’s 1938 again, and we just elected a whole flock of Neville Chamberlains.
U.S. Election Results Embolden Syria, Hezbollah
The Democrats' midterm election victories last week and the subsequent resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld sent a message of American weakness to Syria that will likely result in "instability and chaos" in Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East, Lebanon's Druze Leader Walid Jumblatt said in a WND interview today.

Jumblatt is head of Lebanon's Progressive Socialist Party and is widely considered the most prominent anti-Syrian Lebanese politician.

[...] "The Syrians play this game where they have been waiting for the Americans to get weaker in Iraq," said Jumblatt. "Now with the Democrat's win paving the way for an American withdrawal and with Rumsfeld's resignation making a statement, the Syrians believe they have the upper hand in the region to retake Lebanon."

Iran plotting to groom bin Laden's successor
Iran is trying to form an unholy alliance with al-Qa'eda by grooming a new generation of leaders to take over from Osama bin Laden, The Daily Telegraph can reveal.

Western intelligence officials say the Iranians are determined to take advantage of bin Laden's declining health to promote senior officials who are known to be friendly to Teheran.

[...] The Iranians want Saif al-Adel, a 46-year-old former colonel in Egypt's special forces, to be the organisation's number three.

Al-Adel was formerly bin Laden's head of security, and was named on the FBI's 22 most wanted list after September 11 for his alleged involvement in terror attacks against US targets in Somalia and Africa in the 1990s. He has been living in a Revolutionary Guard guest house in Teheran since fleeing from Afghanistan in late 2001.

Alarm over al-Qa'eda deepened yesterday with a Foreign Office warning that the group was determined to acquire the technology to carry out a nuclear attack on the West.

Iranian President: “Israel is Destined for Destruction”
"Israel is destined for destruction and it will disappear soon," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Monday.

Speaking to government ministers in Teheran, Ahmadinejad said that the world's powers created "the Zionist regime" to increase their dominance in the region and that Israel "slaughters Palestinians on a daily basis."

Clinton Treas. Secretary Rubin: “Raise Taxes!”
That was fast. A mere two days after Democrats capture Congress claiming they wouldn't raise taxes, former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin tells them they should do so anyway.

"You cannot solve the nation's fiscal problems without increased revenues," declared Mr. Rubin, the Democratic Party's leading economic spokesman, in a speech last Thursday. He also took a crack at economic forecasting by noting that "I think if you were to increase taxes right now, you would have probably about zero negative effect on the economy." The economics and politics here are worth parsing.

New House Majority Leader an Unindicted Co-conspirator?
Incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi says she will fight for Rep. John Murtha, an unindicted co-conspirator in the FBI sting operation Abscam, as the next House majority leader.

U.S. Sen. Harrison Williams, D-N.J., and six House members agreed on camera in Abscam to take bribes from FBI agents posing as Arab sheikhs.

Though only 13 seconds of those tapes are available publicly showing Murtha conditionally declining a $50,000 bribe "at this point," in his words, a 1980 Washington Post report by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative columnist Jack Anderson revealed a shocking transcript of recordings never released to the public.

Anderson characterized the Pennsylvania Democrat's interaction with the FBI as "perhaps the saddest scene on the secret Abscam videotapes. ... He refused to take the money, but his reason was hardly noble."

"I want to deal with you guys awhile before I make any transactions at all, period," Murtha explained. "After we've done some business, well, then I might change my mind. ... I'm going to tell you this. If anybody can do it – I'm not B.S.-ing you fellows – I can get it done my way. There's no question about it."

Monday, November 13, 2006

Where Did I Leave My Tinfoil hat?

From the top stories on IRIB (Iranian radio), courtesy of Catholic World News:

According to the Italian daily La Stampa, the Leader of the Catholic sect of Christianity, Pope Benedict XVI has called on former US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, a Jew who does not believe in either Prophet Jesus (peace upon him) or his Virgin mother, Mary (peace upon her), to become a member of the Vatican’s consultative council on foreign policy, a call the latter accepted.

High-ranking sources at the Vatican said important talks are going on between the Pope and Kissinger.

This is not the first time the Vatican, which claims to be champion of Christianity uses foreign, anti-Christian experts. The previous head of the Vatican, Pope John Paul II, had used former US national security advisor Zbingnew Berzhinsky who like him was Polish.

The current Pope and Kissinger are both of German origin.

Their topic of cooperation is secret but the most important topics are related to resurgent Islam, which is claiming more and more adherents around the globe, the situation in US-occupied Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, the so-called fight against what the US views as terrorism, Vatican’s ties with Washington, and issues pertaining to Africa.

Oooooh…they are both German! That proves it! That is, if I can ever figure out what “it” is. I am surprised the article did not bring up the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the Illuminati, the Knights Templar, Bohemian Grove, Opus Dei, the New World Order, and the little gray space aliens in their underground bases. They have the start of a good conspiracy here, but they need to flesh it out a bit.

I wonder how the Iranians found out about this? I will launch an inquiry at the next Trilateral Commission meeting.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Church of England Supporting Euthanasia?

The following is from the London Times, and strikes me as being a bit unfair in its coverage.

The Church of England has joined one of Britain’s royal medical colleges in calling for legal euthanasia of seriously disabled newborn babies.

Church leaders want doctors to be given the right to withhold treatment from seriously disabled newborn babies in exceptional circumstances.

Wait a cotton-picking minute; this article is making a misleading statement. Withholding treatment is not the same thing as euthanasia. If someone is dying or hopelessly injured, my understanding is that there is no absolute obligation to provide more than palliative treatment. (Someone correct me if I am wrong.) Had Terri Schiavo been on a ventilator, it could have been turned off. The outcry was not that she was allowed to die naturally, but that she was killed by the deliberate withholding of food and water.

Their call, overriding the presumption that life should be preserved at any cost, follows that of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology, revealed in The Sunday Times last week.

The church’s position was laid out in a submission to an independent inquiry, due to publish its report this week, into the ethical concerns surrounding the treatment of severely premature babies.

In the submission Tom Butler, Bishop of Southwark, states: “It may in some circumstances be right to choose to withhold or withdraw treatment, knowing it will possibly, probably, or even certainly result in death.”

The withdrawal of the treatment, however, is not for the purpose of causing death. There is a moral difference between not keeping someone alive and killing someone that has been acknowledged by the Church for quite some time - especially considering that the ability to keep someone alive is a pretty recent phenomenon.

The church’s submission does not say which medical conditions might justify the decision to allow babies to die. It argues that there are “strong proportionate reasons” for “overriding the presupposition that life should be maintained”.

It says it would support the withdrawal of treatment only if all reasonable alternatives had been considered, “so that the possible lethal act would only be performed with manifest reluctance”.

That doesn't sound to me like a new position or like one that diverges from the position of Catholics, Orthodox, and most Protestants.

In its proposal the college of obstetricians argued that “active euthanasia” should be considered for the overall good of families, to spare parents the emotional burden and financial stress of caring for desperately sick infants.

And that is a very different matter from withholding treatment.

The college said in its submission to the inquiry: “A very disabled child can mean a disabled family. If life-shortening and deliberate interventions to kill infants were available, they might have an impact on obstetric decision-making, even preventing some late abortions, as some parents would be more confident about continuing a pregnancy and taking a risk on outcome.”

Both submissions were made to the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, an independent body that publishes guidelines for how the medical profession should deal with ethical questions such as euthanasia.

The council was set up nearly two years ago in order to consider the implications of advances that enable infants to be born half-way through pregnancy.

In the Netherlands babies born before 25 weeks are not given medical treatment in certain conditions.

The report, to be published on Thursday, is not expected to set an age limit as a criterion.

This whole thing is a follow-up to the suggestion that British doctors euthanise disabled babies (see previous post on this blog). I am not the obvious candidate to spring to the defense of the Bishops of the Church of England. They seem to have as many heretics per capita as the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Church in Canada. In this case, however, The Times seems to be putting words into their mouths.

George Washington Beheaded

From CNN:
Vandals beheaded a statue of George Washington at one of the world's largest cathedrals and left a dollar bill on what was left of the neck, police said Friday.

The damage was discovered Sunday at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, near Columbia University, Officer Kathleen Price said.

The statue, near the front of the church, is part of a church collection of historical figures spanning 20 centuries. A statue of William Shakespeare represents 17th century, Washington the 18th century, and Abraham Lincoln the 19th century.

Police were still investigating the damage Friday morning and had not made any arrests.

The building, a neo-Gothic landmark, serves as the principal church of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. Construction of St. John the Divine began in 1892, but it is still only three-fifths complete.

Are they sure it was vandals and not the clergy? Maybe they thought George didn't properly represent the United Nations Millenium Development Goals.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Farewell to the Reich

A sad tale of European collapse, excerpted from LifeSite News:
Germany’s downward spiral in population is no longer reversible, the country’s federal statistics office said Tuesday. The birthrate has dropped so low that immigration numbers cannot compensate.

“The fall in the population can no longer be stopped,” vice-president Walter Rademacher with the Federal Statistics Office said, reported Agence France-Presse.

Germany has the lowest birthrate in Europe, with an average of 1.36 children per woman. Despite government incentives to encourage larger families, the population is dropping rapidly and that trend will continue, with an expected loss of as much as 12 million by 2050. That would mean about a 15 percent drop from the country’s current population of 82.4 million, the German news source Deutsche Welle reported today.

Only 65 years ago, they were looking for “Lebensraum im Osten,” room in the East for their burgeoning population. (No, I’m not complaining that that’s over!) Soon, I guess, the last living German will have to invade Poland on his own.

[…] With a 22 percent reduction in the workforce and increasing costs for senior assistance and medical care, the drop in population is expected to have a radical impact on the nation’s economy, along with the welfare budget.

“I wouldn’t like to use the word ‘bankrupt’ because it’s a major challenge for the social insurance systems, that’s for certain,” Radermacher said in an interview with DW-Radio. “But the first thing is to reform the social insurance systems…We can learn from other countries…In every case, you need someone who has to work and give you some earnings.”

Don’t we have a word for people who are forced to work for someone else’s benefit? Oh, yeah – “slaves.”

[…] Germany has one of the largest populations of Muslim immigrants in Western Europe, with a Muslim community of over 3 million. That trend is expected to continue, leading some demographic trend-watchers to warn that the country is well on the way to becoming a Muslim state by 2050, Deutsche Welle reported.

The Brussels Journal reported last month that one third of all European children will be born to Muslim families by 2025. There are an estimated 50 million Muslims living in Europe today-that number is expected to double over the next twenty years.

It’s a rare event when you actually get to see a civilization commit suicide. I don’t think anything quite this dramatic has happened since the collapse of the Roman Empire – at least not since the first Moslem expansion. At least the first time, the barbarians and the Moslems had to fight for the ruins of the old Empire. This time, the Europeans just seem to be handing them the keys to the city. Do they really think they’ll be allowed to coexist? Have they forgotten that North Africa, the Middle East, and the Arabian Peninsula used to be Christian and part of the Hellenic world?

By the way, just in terms of their retirement system, how long do they expect young Moslems, with big families to feed, will be willing to pay the social security bill for a bunch of old, self-indulgent atheists?

[…] The demographic decline coincides with a dramatic drop in Christian religious belief and a consequent rejection of Christian morality and emphasis on the benefits of family life and children.

Gee, you think? Could the attitude that says “I’ll abort the kid because I want to spend the money on a better stereo system,” actually have something to do with morality and the way you view the world? (I guess I should say “Weltanschauung,” instead of “worldview,” in honor of our soon-to-be-late German friends.)

There is a logical conclusion to atheism, whether it takes the form of a structured philosophy or is just a default godlessness. That logical conclusion is a radical self-centeredness that goes way beyond the ordinary selfishness we all struggle with. It restricts my concerns solely to the narrow slice of history I happen to live in. If there is no eternity, then I owe nothing to a future that doesn’t have me in it. If what I see is all there is, then getting as much pleasure out of it that I can is the sensible response. The Christian notion of charity/love doesn’t become optional or negotiable. It becomes stupid and pointless.

Atheists can be very decent, moral people; I know some. What they can’t be is both moral and logically consistent.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Episcopal Chaplain Loses Job for Running Gay Website

A news item from the Miami Herald:
An Episcopalian chaplain resigned from his job at a Palmetto Bay private school after explicit images of him appeared on a gay wrestling website that was circulated this week around the school, school officials said.

Father Adrian Parry, 47, of South Miami, quit his post at Palmer Trinity School on Monday after almost two decades as its chaplain and head of the humanities and history department, according to school headmaster Sean Murphy.

Parry ''had been engaging in what, in our opinion, were inappropriate and unacceptable outside activities,'' Murphy wrote in a statement.

A former Palmer Trinity student who is now in college found a website called - lucha is a Spanish word for fight - with photos of Parry and forwarded the link to some former and current students, according to Mike Casey, an attorney for Palmer Trinity.

The website, which records show is registered to Parry, was taken offline Monday, but archived pages have links to gay nude wrestling DVDs for sale, Parry's e-mail address and an invitation to participate. (If you think I'm going to link the site, think again. Go find some cached pages if you are interested; better yet, go to confession.)

''If you want to wrestle me, simply send me an e-mail,'' Parry wrote on the site, which contains a disclaimer about adult content. ``I can host . . . or travel to you. All serious challenges will be responded to. Let's wrestle!''

The Episcopalian Diocese of Southeast Florida defrocked Parry of his duties as a reverend as the group investigates him. He can choose to renounce his priesthood or face a trial among church leaders, said Bishop Leo Frade, head of the Diocese.

''The evidence that we received . . . shows conduct unbecoming a clergy person,'' Frade said. "There are certain promises a priest needs to fulfill, and according to what was presented to us, we had no choice but to take the action we have with Father Parry.''

[…] Parry's resignation and the unearthing of his website shocked students and parents, many of whom described him as a dedicated teacher who led humanitarian efforts in Thailand after a tsunami struck the country in December 2004.

Parry was vacationing in Thailand with friends, as was his tradition every year, when the deadly natural disaster hit the region. Murphy, the Palmer Trinity headmaster, agreed to let Parry stay in the country an extra two weeks to help with the recovery. Other teachers substituted for Parry in his economics and modern history classes.

While he was in Thailand, Parry e-mailed journal entries to Palmer Trinity students. In one dispatch, he said he didn't have the courage to help pick up and move dead bodies, so instead he concentrated on reconnecting victims who had lost track of their relatives.

Good for him in helping with the recovery, but did anyone at the school ever stop to think that Thailand is the sex-tourism capital of Asia? Having a tradition of going there with friends every year, though possibly totally innocent, ought to have raised an eyebrow somewhere.

[…] ''I just hope the parents and kids will be able to move past this and understand that something like this can happen anywhere, to anyone, at any school,'' Casey said.

No, I’m sorry. Things like this can’t happen to anyone, anywhere. They can be committed by anyone, anywhere. They are a product of our sinful nature, not happenstance, and therefore they don’t have to happen to anyone. When they do, they reflect our sin and not our victimhood.

I feel sorrow for this perpetrator, especially since it seems that he did indeed manage to keep his perversions separated from the school, and I hope that his (appropriate) defrocking and job loss will lead him to real repentance. Evil flourishes in the dark and secret places, and now that it is open to the light perhaps it can be healed. He won’t be able to do it on his own, any more than Ted Haggard could deal with his demons in secret.

I am somewhat pleasantly surprised at the immediate response of the school and the diocese. If Vicki Gene Robinson, having left his wife and family to run off with a gay lover, is an appropriate model for a bishop and a shepherd in the Episcopal Church, then I am not sure on what logical grounds they can go after this guy as a priest.

Catholic Shrinks Upbraid Bishops on Same Sex Attractions

A fascinating article from WorldNet Daily:
"Gravely flawed" – that's the dire warning of medical experts who have seen copies of the proposed guidelines for Ministry to Persons with Homosexual Inclinations, to be released by the Catholic Bishops of the United States at their annual conference in Baltimore next week.

Catholic psychiatrists and physicians have quietly sent selected bishops detailed memos outlining their objections to the document in advance of the November 13-16 meeting. Among the chief objections to the document, the critique notes, is that a truly charitable ministry includes "the truths that medical/psychological science has discovered about homosexuality … In particular, the health risks inherent in the lifestyle and the real grounds for hope of recovery and healing are never mentioned in the [proposed] document."

The memo summarizes key points from medical and psychological literature on homosexuality that these experts had hoped the bishops would acknowledge, including:
  • no genetic basis [for same-sex attraction] was found in last year's [human]genome study

  • fluidity of sexual attractions, with people spontaneously moving out of the lifestyle

  • rampant promiscuity

  • inability to maintain commitment
Richard Fitzgibbons, M.D., a contributor to the Catholic Medical Association's statement on "Homosexuality and Hope," was explicit: "Persons with SSA (Same-Sex Attraction) suffer real physical and emotional physical illness in this lifestyle. There is no mention [in the document] of the deleterious effects of homosexual behavior on the person; the abuse, the diseases and the psychological pain that accompanies that lifestyle."

[...] Critics who have reviewed the text say this new document reveals that the bishops have little understanding of the disorder. As Dr. Edward Sheridan told WND, "There is a drivenness to much homosexual behavior, not simply a lust dynamism. A compulsive drive to be happy – somehow – to be "gay"; a yearning, a longing to get out of abject loneliness. ... And this is the characteristic compulsive promiscuity you see. Even 25 years ago we had reliable studies that showed by age 33 the average homosexual man had had 1,031 separate persons with whom they had engaged in sexual activity."

The text does include a call to virtue, including chastity for all who are unmarried, and reiterates the Church's official teaching that although a homosexual attraction is not immoral, any homosexual act is immoral and objectively disordered. But the document casts those with same-sex attraction as victims of the culture, of "scorn, hated and even violence in some sectors of our society."

As one Catholic high school volunteer responded to that charge: "That's a fabrication. The greater danger from violence to any gay person is from his or her partner." FBI statistics bear out the charge. Violent crimes against gays by heterosexuals are just .0001 percent of cases. As for homosexual abuse of other homosexuals, Fitzgibbons cites a recent study in the American Journal of Public Health that reports, "39 percent of males with same-sex attraction have been abused by other males with same-sex attraction."

[...] Sheridan admits that negative language is one of the flaws of the document. He said the document ought to "use only positive language that exhibits a capacity for caring for all human beings All means everyone, i.e., no soul left behind from God's love. There is a pastoral responsibility for caring for all involved." Others point out that no legitimate ministry to those with homosexual inclinations can avoid the necessity for homosexual persons to make amends to those they have harmed.

"When you go to confession and admit that you have gossiped, the priest instructs you to go make amends to the person you were gossiping about," said a parent who requested anonymity. "Gays are no less in need of making amends for their sins than anyone else. We cannot create a special category for certain sins in the name of 'ministry.'"

Because the document fails to address real medical and psychosocial aspects of same-sex attraction and the homosexual lifestyle, some have questioned the document's real purpose. Observers have expressed serious concern that while this new document is cloaked in snippets of official Church teaching, it is functionally a rebuke aimed at those within the Church who supposedly harbor "disguised forms of hatred" toward persons of homosexual inclinations.

Dominic Bettinelli Jr
(his blog is here), former editor of Catholic World Report, said of the proposed document: "Unfortunately, what I see here is an attempt to 'get out in front' of this issue by partisans hoping to push the pro-gay point of view in the "Always Our Children" mold."

Interesting – and a sad commentary that the laity has to lecture the Bishops of the Church on their duties to the faithful. I do not have a list of the age distribution among the Bishops in the USA, but I will wager ten bucks of my hard-earned cash that the majority are members of my lamentable boomer generation, steeped in the “spirit of Vatican II” and in the heady days of 60’s liberalism. I can’t help thinking it would be profitable for American (Latin-Rite) Catholics to bury the denominational hatchet and work out a swap, trading the most heretical of their bishops for the remaining orthodox ones in the Episcopal Church. TEC is so eager to be rid of the orthodox, RCs might even be able to arrange a two-for-one deal.

It is also sad that, in the effort to be politically sensitive and "nice," the church hierarchy seems to have short-changed those who suffer from same-sex attractions of the real healing power available in Christ. I sometimes wonder how much they (and I, I confess) actually believe the gospel we proclaim.