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3/14/2003

 

the second step towards jordan



jacob watched as the last of his earthly belongings vanished over the river jordan.

everything, he thought. his wives, his children, his servants, and all the wealth that he had brought with them. he looked after them until they had passed from sight, then stood alone.

he shivered a bit. the sun wouldn't rise for a few hours more and there was a chill in the air, but it wasn't the chill that brought the shivers on. on the other side of that river was a man who was a man coming to meet him with a small army alongside. that man was going to kill him, and may, for all jacob knew, kill all of his wives and children too. and yet here jacob stood, and there went all that he was across the river, sent by his own command, to meet whatever doom waited there.

he hadn't intended to dally long, but when the insanity of it all came upon him fully, he had no choice but to stop and give a moment's ponderance to a life that had been just as insane as its ending. he thought back to his childhood. playing among the tents with his mother, while his older brother esau went afield and hunted game to the delight of their father. esau was the elder brother. esau would be a prince among men, the father of a mighty nation--with sons as limitless as the sands on the shore. esau, who polluted the purity of their bloodline with the troublesome women of strange lands and strange gods. he was a simple, stubborn, stupid brute of a man who hadn't given the time it took to string his bow in thought to the role he was expected to play. but jacob thought about it. he hadn't been given esau's strength or skill with a bow, but he had been given patience, a dogged tenacity, and ambition. he also had the lack of scruples needed to convert those otherwise ineffectual virtues into everlasting glory.

he bought esau's birthright for a bowl of soup. serves him right, jacob remembered thinking. he shouldn't have let himself get so hungry. besides, is there not always bread in our father’s tents? he needn't have come to me. he despised what had been given to him, so now it's mine. jacob had balked when his mother suggested he go the next step and steal his brother's blessing as well, but the plan did seem solid, and anyway, how else could a younger son ever hope to advance? he threw on esau's garments while his mother cooked his father's favorite stew--the sort esau made. and she placed the skins of the lamb she slew for the meal on his arms, to fool her blind husband's hands as well as his nose. thus walked jacob into his father's tent, wearing his brother's robes and carrying his brother's stew to steal his brother's blessing. it worked. "jacob" he had been called on his birth. it meant "supplanter" in the tongue of his people.

to escape esau's wrath, jacob was forced to flee to the home of his uncle laban--ostensibly to find a wife from among his own people. one night as he was travelling, a dream was given to him by God, and in that dream God promised that the covenant between Himself and abraham would be fulfilled through jacob. when he awoke, he built an altar and anointed it with oil, rendering the Almighty the reverence jacob felt was His due. but sanctimony was one thing, and service was quite another. jacob never got anything free, and no one got anything free from jacob, not even God. at that altar, jacob called out to God, and swore that if God would bless him, and keep His word, then would he become His worshiper--he would even give back to God a tenth of all that God would give to him. that seemed more than fair.

God had kept his word. although, jacob thought, it didn't always seem like it. it didn't seem like it when laban tricked him out of seven years of hard work by giving him the hand of his eldest daughter leah rather than hand he promised, that of his daughter rachel, who jacob loved more than life itself. seven more years he labored for rachel, and while God had poured out His blessings upon the flocks and herds of laban, jacob had nothing. it was time to move on. laban begged jacob to stay, and jacob agreed that he would work six years time for the speckled offspring of laban's herds, then leave with the cattle he had earned. but when the cattle birthed only speckled young, laban would change jacob's wages to striped, and when God gave jacob stripes, laban would change his wages once more. for twenty years laban cheated, tricked, lied, and prospered, while jacob toiled in thankless task, and would have left penniless for his troubles had laban had his way. even after jacob had finally earned his freedom, laban rode out to recapture his daughters and cattle by force, and would have had not God come to him in a dream and warned him not to interfere. but in his better moments jacob had no choice but to admit that laban was no less than he deserved, and anyway, in the end, jacob won. jacob always won.

jacob smiled grimly to himself as he considered that he would have been better off had he lost. before he had departed from laban's house, God had commanded him to return to the land of his father, to the land where esau lived. he thought back now to the time of his flight from home, some twenty years ago, and recalled his final moments with his beloved mother. "esau is going to kill you, my son. you must go. i will convince your father to send you away to my brother laban's house that you may find a wife from among our people--but you must go at once and stay there until i call for you again!" she hadn't called.

a few nights ago, jacob had seen the angels of God encamped near his tents, and a few hours ago he had called out to their Master, pleading with Him to remember the covenant, to remember how well He had been obeyed. and now he stood alone, with only this river jordan between himself and esau's wrath. jacob heaved a heavy sigh, and resigned himself to his fate. He had obeyed God this far, and he had sent servants before him to carry gifts to esau, perchance turning away his wrath. he had done all he could do. he faced the river and took the first step--and was knocked senseless to the ground!

he hadn't seen anyone coming--just a streak of something white out of the corner of his eye, then pain and confusion as he slammed hard into the earth. he was dazed, and his breath had been ripped from him by the blow. he struggled to his feet where he stood for a few moments doubled over and gasping for air. he'd bit his lip when he'd fallen and he could taste blood. he wiped it from his chin, and, regaining his composure, turned to face whatever it was that had hit him. before him was a Man, clothed in white, with no weapon in His hands and an unreadable expression on His face. jacob couldn't bear to look at it for long, for such was its great beauty, but he could see that there was no trace of malice, or even anger, in the eyes. if anything, they seemed concerned, but there was something else in them as well. a glint of mirth, perhaps? or was it taunting? or perhaps a fury so well-focused and contained that no trace of it could be seen outwardly. it didn't matter. the man was standing between him and the river. though jacob knew that death awaited him on its far bank, he had already purposed in his heart to cross. it was going to happen. it was that simple.

jacob flung himself wildly at the Man, knocking Him on his back. he climbed atop His chest and meant to throttle Him, but the Man was too quick and had wormed out from underneath. they scrambled to their feet and locked arms again, jacob grunting with exertion, the Man making no sounds. they wrestled for hours until morning light neared and a grueling stalemate had been reached. with whatever force jacob attacked, the Man countered. when the Man attacked, He never seemed to use more force than jacob could withstand. as the first light of coming day fell, jacob and the Man could be seen on the ground, still locked in their pointless match. then something changed. the Man reached down knocked jacob's hip out of socket, causing jacob to howl in pain and very nearly lose his grip. his Foe stood and looked down at jacob, who was still clinging to the hem of His robe with what strength he had left.

"let Me go," He said in a calm voice. "the morning approaches."

jacob's eyes were blurred with tears of pain and fury. it was hard to see through them, but he could see well enough to be amazed by the Man's robe. jacob was bruised and bloodied, and his garment stained and torn beyond repair. the Man looked as fresh as when jacob had first seen Him.

why is He doing this to me, jacob wondered. i have paid for my sins and then some. i have done all that has been asked. i have traveled from my home and toiled in futility for twenty years. i have taken all that which i clawed unto myself and thrown it to the wind at His command. i have withheld nothing from Him. my wives, my children, my servants, my wealth. all of it has been handed over to the destroyer, and now i, even i, march to my death to obey Him. is this not enough? must He make sport of me as well? must He Himself stand in my way? had He any justice about Him, He would have carried me and my substance across this river, and with the hand He used to cripple me, He would smote my enemy before my eyes.

what jacob said was this: "i will not let you go until you bless me."

"what is your name," asked the Man.

"jacob."

"no longer will you be called jacob," the Man said. "you are now israel, prince with God. for as a prince you have power with God and with men, and you have prevailed."

jacob did not release the Man's robe. instead, he looked up and said "i have told you my name, now tell me Yours."

"why do you ask my name? is it not a blessing you seek?"

and the Man put His hand upon jacob's head, and blessed him. jacob released his grip, and just that quickly he was alone once more.

jacob worked his way slowly to his feet, but found he couldn't put much weight on his bad hip. he looked up and saw a few sparkles on the jordan as the rim of the sun peaked above the horizon to his back, as though the river were saluting him. a prince with God and men, he thought. not by guile or stratagem, not by tenacity or endurance, or, as jacob realized, not even by hand to hand combat. he had struggled his whole life, and everything he had, he had fought for, or stole. nothing had been given him. in the end, the One with Whom he had always fought came down in the flesh and strove with him in Person, before freely handing jacob that which he had tried to steal for himself. no longer a supplanter, a usurper, a pretender to a throne that belonged to a man who perhaps even now waited to kill him, he was instead a rightful prince, and made so by the only One Who could ever make a prince rightful.

his hip ached sorely and he was still exhausted from the struggle, but he would continue on. he knew he couldn't make it on his own, and if he did manage to cross and face his brother, it wouldn't be because his strength had brought him there. jacob took his second step towards jordan, and was on his way.

locdog encourages you to obey God




3/13/2003

 

when will the french learn?



i just can't figure it out.

for a century the hypocrites in france have boasted about their principles and convictions and moral superiority, while we've been the ones to do their dirty work and haul their truffle-munching butts out of the fire for the simple reason that they will not recognize a dictator before it's too late.

why?

i can't make this a specific indictment of france. europeans in general seem to have had whatever nerve endings are responsible for detecting the writing on the wall sliced from their retinas. but the french are the best, worst example. the hyper-snootiness surrounding iraq brings to mind charles de gaulle's triumphant march down the champ elysees back in 1944, as though he were some conquering hero. over 20,000 americans died so that he could bask in pomp, circumstance, and occasional sniper fire while making one of the most ungrateful speeches in world history--a speech in which the dead americans whose bodies he used like stepping stones to skip from his exile in london all the way back to paris without getting his feet wet weren't even mentioned:

Why should we try to hide our emotion which we all of us here, men and women, feel ? We are back home in Paris which is on its feet to liberate itself and which has been able to achieve it singlehanded. No, we should not try to conceal this profound and sacred emotion. We are living through moments which transcend each of our poor lives.

Paris ! Outraged Paris ! Broken Paris ! Martyred Paris, but liberated Paris ! Liberated by the people of Paris with help from the armies of France, with the help and support of the whole of France, of France which is fighting, of the only France, the real France, eternal France.
Because the enemy which held Paris has capitulated to us France goes home to Paris.


emphasis mine.

in reality, eisenhower had decided to bypass paris after the successful d-day invasion for targets of greater strategic import, but de gaulle, incensed, went for the french capital on his own thus "singlehandedly" smashing the germans and stealing a spotlight he had done next to nothing to earn. bravo, charles.

today, many frenchmen hold de gaulle in esteem rivaled only by that afforded napoleon himself, while americans, if tolerated at all, are treated as idiot children.

a couple of days ago, i found myself discussing recent french intransigence with a left-leaning co-worker.

"france is dirty," i said, not punning as much as you might think. "don't believe for an instant that their opposition is motivated by altruism. they've got extensive financial ties to iraq, and i'll bet they've got some sort of weapons deal going on with saddam under the table. once this war begins, we're going to find this stuff out and they don't want that."

"i don't believe that," she replied. "you don't understand the french people. they really do believe in peace. they harbor international felons that no one else wants and they've abolished the death penalty. the french people believe in resolving this without war and chirac is just giving them what they want."

i'm no expert on franco-american relations, but it wouldn't surprise me one bit if this description was a perfectly accurate portrayal of how the french people view their role in the iraqi conflict--the Enlightened Ones bringing civility and justice to an otherwise barbarous world. i can't exactly say that her comments made me respect the french more, but they did give me some things to think about.

for one thing, it's pretty easy to thump one's chest and boast of one's moral superiority when the rights to do those things were won by proxy. like charles de gaulle, today's france boasts of being "king of the world" when the real mohammed ali, that is, us, fought and won all of their fights for them. that's bad enough, but when one considers that the noble french are denying the civility and liberties they see themselves the guarantors of to the very people who need them most...

imagine a starving, wretched beggar who is near the point of death, but is saved by a wealthy passerby at great personal expense to himself. when the beggar is well again, he boasts of his perseverance and great strength during his personal struggles, then slanders the man who helped him and tries to stop him from helping others. if you can imagine that excess of blinding pride, you can imagine france.

while i don't deny that chirac's actions have been politically popular at home, i still believe there has to be more motivating him than votes. france has consistently opposed get-tough measures with iraq throughout the past decade, bickering over sanctions and harping on every resolution that attempted to tighten the noose saddam placed around his own neck. as i heard one pundit recently quip, an alien visiting this planet and watching the events of the past decade (and especially those of the last few months) could hardly be faulted for concluding that france was iraq's ally and mortal enemies with the united states.

of all the analogues i could find to france's diplomatic wranglings, the best would have to be the soviet union's omnipresent stonewalling during the cold war, and believe me, the fact that france is defending something every bit as despicable as what the sovs used to defend doesn't hurt the analogy one bit.

so maybe it isn't that france cannot recognize a dictator when she sees one. maybe she will not. maybe the french really do view supposed american hegemony as a greater threat than rogue dictators--which, let's face it, is what's at the core of all of this "french principles" nonsense. maybe they really are more concerned with their oil deals and economic ties than with the safety of the american people. or maybe they're just mind-blowingly dumb and truly have failed to learn the lessons of a century's worth of missed signals. whatever the case may be, two things are perfectly clear: 1. thank you God that my ancestors got the hell out of europe, and 2. george w. bush has every reason for going on without france, and we should probably feel all the better about it when he does.

locdog will





3/12/2003

 

a challenge for pro-life and pro-abortion types alike



see if you can find one mention of this in an american newspaper. i'm not saying it isn't out there, but i haven't been able to find it.

locdog isn't surprised




 

so what if the jews did kill Jesus?



some arguments never die.

rabbi marvin hier is imploring the passion writer/director mel gibson not to "unleash more of the scurrilous charges of deicide directed against the Jewish people, which took the Catholic Church 20 centuries to finally repudiate."

in his upcoming film, gibson, a traditionalist catholic who rejects vatican II reforms, portrays the final 12 hours of the death of Christ in a graphic and very realistic manner. crucifixion was a bloody business, and the beatings and torture Christ sustained before He even got to the cross left Him disfigured almost beyond recognition. a historically accurate portrayal of Christ's passion, taking into account roman methods of punishment, cannot help but be emotionally explosive. rabbi hier expressed his concerns "that the film's purpose is to undo the changes made by Vatican II," changes in which, according to him, included "the rejection of the notion that the Jews were collectively responsible for the death of Jesus."

the history of anti-semitism in the roman catholic church, in the later writings of martin luther, and in a few backward segments of the church today, is a reality which we must confront. no reasonable Christian of any stripe could deny that the epithet of "Christ killer" has been used to justify repeated atrocities against the jewish people. together, these incidents account for some of the most shameful portions of church history, and continue to tarnish Christians and strain Christian-jewish relationships to this day.

but does this justify re-writing history?

rabbi hier defines vatican II in part as that which the roman catholic church used to exonerate the jews, and then asks gibson not to reject this doctrine and re-open old wounds. necessary to this request is the assumption on rabbi hier's part that by rejecting vatican II, gibson seeks to castigate the jewish people and impugn them with the guilt of Christ's death. but--and you catholics please correct me if i'm wrong--the roman catholic church has never taught that the jewish people were collectively to blame for Christ's death, rather, they taught that the jewish people collectively were guilty of rejecting Christ as their Messiah, and only those jews specifically responsible for His crucifixion were to be blamed for Christ's death (those presiding at his trial, those shouting "crucify Him!", etc.) as i understand it, those jews who were persecuted during the crusades or under the inquisition were done so not because they were considered deicidal maniacs, but because they refused to convert to Christianity. (although in point of fact, many jews did convert and even these weren't safe from mistreatment.) vatican II, as far as i as a protestant can tell, didn't redefine rome's teaching on the relationship between Christ and the jews, it simply clarified it. there's a difference between acknowledging past wrongs, expressing one's regret over them, and offering clarification to prevent re-runs from happening in the future, and between saying "well, we did used to believe that way, but now we believe this."

i point this out not to excuse or deny the sins of rome's past, but to show that simply by rejecting vatican II reforms mel gibson does not necessarily seek to pin a murder rap on all jewish people everywhere. this could only be the case if vatican II really was the papal pardon rabbi hier seems to think it was. for all i know gibson may be an anti-semite (although i don't personally think he is), but his stance on vatican II can't be used to prove it.

to be perfectly honest with you, i don't think rabbi hier's concerns have anything to do with vatican II. my guess is that he simply doesn't want a film made in which jewish people are blamed for the death of Christ. period. it's not hard to understand why he would feel that way, but the Bible clearly states that the jewish people rejected Christ as their Messiah, that they presided over His bogus trials, and that they handed Him over to the romans and demanded He be executed as an insurrectionist (only rebels against the roman state were crucified.) look, these are historical facts. the gospels, all being written in the first century by eye-witnesses to the events, are unanimous in their description. and historical facts are not anti-semitic any more than retelling the atrocities of the inquisition or the holocaust are anti-catholic or anti-german. they can be used in such ways, and certainly have been, but because people often seek to contort or misapply the truth doesn't give us the right to revise history.

i know, i know: "why would gibson even bring this whole mess up again if not smear jewish people?" he's bringing it up because he's telling a story about the final twelve hours of the life of Christ, folks, and guess what: you can't tell that story without involving the jews. it's simply not possible. you can cut them out, or rework it so that Christ's death was actually a roman plot (a recent made-for-TV version of the life of Christ did just that) but that's not telling the story of Jesus. that's telling a fictional story about a fictional character who happens to be named Jesus, and passing it off as gospel truth.

and look, i've taken history of Christianity courses at a secular university. i'm acquainted with modern scholarship and their theories. i've listened to the ravings of that headline-grabber john dominic crossan and his colleagues in the so-called "Jesus seminar." i know that a lot of modern scholarship would like very much for you to believe that the jewish people had nothing to do with the death of Christ, that it was all the romans. but there simply isn't any evidence for it. secular sources from the first century (tacitus, josephus) confirm that Christ was put to death by pilate, which is in perfect agreement with the gospel account. (josephus even adds that this was done "at the suggestion of the principle men among us" which would refer to jewish authorities since josephus was himself a jew.) other than fanciful conspiracy theories, there isn't a shred of evidence to contradict the Bible's version of the events leading to Jesus' death, namely, that jewish religious leaders were threatened by Jesus' influence and brought Him to pilate to be executed as an insurrectionist. ironically enough, it was essential to the jewish leaders responsible for Christ's death that the guilt be laid on rome so as not to create a backlash against themselves for stoning a popular prophet, one who, a week prior to His death, was hailed by all as the coming Messiah. many have pointed to Biblical bias due to early Christian anti-semitism (and i'm not denying that anti-semitism existed in the early church), but the sort of men willing to fabricate motives to smear the jews are not the sort who would also willingly publish all sorts of embarrassing details about themselves. things like the fact that they all fled like cowards during Christ's execution, leaving the women to stand by Him until the end, or that it was these same women who first witnessed His resurrection, or that the apostle peter, the very rock the early church was founded on, swore up and down that he never even knew Jesus. that last two are real doozies, particularly the one about women first witnessing the ressurection since under the jewish law of the day, women weren't even allowed to testify in court.

there is a tendency among modern scholars to try to tell history as it should have been rather than telling history as it is. academic integrity has been repeatedly sacrificed to political correctness, and, what’s worse, it’s now to the point where people are expected to act this way and censured if they don't. i sympathize with rabbi hier and believe that he is only acting to preserve the safety of his people, but when all is said and done, he's asking mel gibson to lie. the key to healing old wounds isn't re-writing history, it's to scrutinize it: Jesus was the Son of God, but He was also the son of david. He came first to the jewish people, then to the gentiles, which is God's pattern throughout the Bible. by believing in Christ as our Savior, we Christians are "grafted" into abraham's tree, share a spiritual kinship with the Old Testament fathers, and have a right to call abraham our father in the same sense as we have, by way of adoption, the right to call Christ our Brother as well as our King. further, the Bible says that, while the jewish people would be punished for rejecting their Messiah, God has not forgotten them, will never abandon them, and loves them still as His chosen people. the Bible teaches that before this world is brought to its end, they will be reconciled with God. Christians, therefore, who commit violence against jews, whether they claim to have Biblical motives are not, are not only sinning against a fellow human being, but against a member of their own family, and against God Himself.

locdog thinks we need more truth, not less




3/11/2003

 

how the left is killing roe v. wade



this has got to be one of the worst examples of media bias i've seen in weeks. under the guise of objective, independent journalism, this newsweek article portrays the entire partial-birth abortion debate as nothing more than an ultra-right wing publicity stunt.

it opens with a description of how the phrase "partial-birth abortion" was conjured out of thin air by pro-life politicians looking for maximum emotional firepower to drum up support for a bill banning the procedure doctors refer to as "D & X" (dialation and extraction), and then goes on to describe how pro-abortion groups see the whole debate as a red-herring argument to mask deeper abolitionist intents: "This is about ending legal abortion."

wonder who newsweek agrees with, given that the article is entitled "chipping away at roe"...

Ever since Roe, abortion foes have looked for ways to make the practice illegal again. In early 1993, [national right to life committee legislative director douglas] Johnson could hardly believe his luck when a copy of a paper by Dr. Martin Haskell arrived anonymously at the National Right to Life offices. It spelled out, in plain English, Haskell’s method for removing an intact fetus feet first until the head lodged against the cervix, then poking a hole in the base of the skull and suctioning out the brain. “It let us break through all the rhetoric,” says Janet Folger, then a lobbyist for Ohio Right to Life, which helped pass the first state ban. Folger knew she had a hot issue when some lawmakers broke down in tears.


so, right to life activists cheerfully exploited the most horrific of all abortion methods to...oppose the most horrific of all abortion methods? more on that in a bit.

Even some on the right wonder why abortion opponents have spent so much energy on it. Mark Crutcher, of the anti-abortion group Life Dynamics, says the partial-birth fight has allowed politicians to take a public stand without any real consequences. “Bush gets to play pro-life without having to do anything pro-life,” he says.


i won't deny that there's an element of showiness to all of this, and i'll agree that bush hasn't been much of a friend to the pro-life community so far, but newsweek's editorial insistence (why pretend it's journalistic?) that this debate has no meaning aside from killing roe v. wade crosses the lines of integrity. whenever you see a sentence that begins with "Even some on the right..." o careful reader, you know at once that the writer is trying to frame the debate in terms of a few extremist kooks versus everyone else. while admitting that both sides have stretched the truth (pro-abortion forces downplay the numbers of partial birth abortions while pro-life groups exaggerate the age at which the procedure is carried out) in a token attempt at balance, newsweek neglects to give anything even vaguely resembling proper context for the dispute. they allow the pro-abortion side to talk about killing roe and threatening a woman's safety by denying her an abortion, yet nothing is said of the fact that if you were to stick one of these infants in an incubator rather than sucking out their brains and selling them for spare parts, they would be medical miracles rather than statistics. or that in the partial-birth abortion debate, the abortion issue in its entirety is crystallized like nowhere else since in no other case are we forced to so clearly confront the life and death struggle for what it really is. or even that, but for a few inches of vaginal canal, killing one of these babies would be first degree murder. in short, none of the reasons why pro-life advocates feel so strongly about partial-birth abortion are given. instead, we get glimpses of sophistry and ghoulish glee at the gruesome execution of infants and the rhetorical points these deaths are sure to score.

the specious core of this article is the idea that somehow pro-life advocates are being disingenuous by making such a big deal over partial-birth abortions, a method which accounts for only a tiny fraction of all abortions performed here in the states (about 2200, but whereas abortion in general is on the decline, the popularity of "D & X" has exploded over the last decade). showing the american people partial-birth abortion to fight partial-birth abortion isn't disingenuous. newsweek and the pro-abortion crowd have attempted to demonstrate an ulterior motive to prove that it is, but in order to do so they've had to deny the reality of the debate: sure a pro-lifer would probably have ulterior motives in this debate were partial birth abortion itself not an ugly, inhumane practice, but if it is? even if i believed that banning partial-birth abortion would lead to no further abortion restrictions, i would still be in support of such a ban with the same fervency, and i have no doubt that the vast majority of pro-life advocates would share my views.

now, it might be hard to see how misapplied the pro-abortion side's tactic is unless one first sees it applied correctly. consider these examples from the civil-rights realm: jesse jackson wallowing in the blood of martin luther king jr., or the NAACP's infamous james byrd ad in which they had byrd's surviving daughter all but accuse george w. bush of driving the pickup truck that drug her father to his death. of course jackson and the NAACP are opposed to racial violence, but aren't they simply trading on their reputation as civil rights activists to cover their cynical motives? getting word out about the deaths of king or byrd to fight racially motivated violence is an excellent idea, but publicizing them to pick up a few votes or boost one's fame is quite another. these are instances of people using means consistent with their ideals to achieve selfish ends, whereas the pro-life side of the partial-birth abortion debate is using means consistent with their ideals to achieve idealistic ends. the former case is an exploitation of the public trust, the latter is simply being true to one's convictions.

the pro-abortion crowd is attempting to argue that there really isn't any meaningful difference between a partial-birth abortion and any other sort. they have to, because if there really is something distinctly horrible about partial-birth abortion then they can no longer dismiss the opposition as a handful of nuts trying to ban roe. they would have to acknowledge the debate as legitimate, and confront the issues head-on. that's a fight they know they cannot win. oddly enough, the supreme court encouraged just such a fight in the roe v. wade decision itself when it gave power to the legislature to regulate third-trimester abortions in deference to what it called the state's interest in the potentiality of human life:

For the stage subsequent to viability the State, in promoting its interest in the potentiality of human life, may, if it chooses, regulate, and even proscribe, abortion except where necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.


emphasis mine.

this means that the pro-abortion forces who fight the partial-birth abortion debate by portraying it as nothing more than an assault on roe v. wade are themselves assaulting roe v. wade.

this is perhaps the only instance where locdog will be pleased to support roe





 

because he's a democrat



why is this any better than what trent lott said?

locdog has a few guesses




 

pretty darn sad...



that is, it's pretty darn sad when i agree with an atheist like slate's christopher hitchens more than the pope.

One wonders what it would take for the Vatican to condemn Saddam's regime. Baathism consecrates an entire country to the worship of a single human being. Its dictator has mosques named after himself. I'm not the expert on piety, but isn't there something blasphemous about this from an Islamic as well as a Christian viewpoint? I suppose if Saddam came out for partial-birth abortions or the ordination of women or the acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle he might be hit with a condemnation of some sort. (Until recently, one might have argued that his abuse of children would get him in hot water with the Vatican, too. But even that expectation now seems vain.)

In one way, the church's "peace at any price" policy is a historical improvement. The last instance I can find of Rome supporting a war was when it blessed Gen. Franco's invasion of Spain, at the head of an army of Muslim mercenaries who were armed and trained by Hitler and Mussolini. And everybody knows of the crusades, which were launched against Christian heretics as well as against Muslims and (invariably) the Jews. But one wonders how the theory of "just war," largely evolved by Catholic intellectuals such as Augustine and Aquinas, ever managed to endorse the use of force. As applied these days, it appears to commit everybody but Saddam Hussein to an absolute renunciation of violence.


ouch.

it's funny that hitchens seems genuinely surprised by the vatican's anti-war stance. he shouldn't be. no one who has followed the vatican's de-facto defense of the hussein regime over the past decade could be. when the pope and his emissaries have consistently blamed every ill of the iraqi people on the failings of the global community rather than saddam's brutal tyranny and stubborn non-compliance with even the overly-patient u.n.'s requirements, and have yet to devote a tenth of the energy towards blasting the atrocities of the hussein regime as they have the atrocities of not allowing a madman to sell oil so that he can acquire more anthrax and vx gas, it's really hard for me to understand how anyone could not have seen this coming.

hitchens goes on at the end of the article to extend his complaint to religion in general

As a member of Atheists for Regime Change, a small but resilient outfit, I can't say that any of this pious euphemism, illogic, and moral cowardice distresses me. It shows yet again that there is a fixed gulf between religion and ethics. I hope it's borne in mind by the president, next time he wants to make a speech implying that God is on the side of the United States (and its godless Constitution). The leading experts in the supernatural, including also the Archbishop of Canterbury, many rabbis, most imams, and Bush's own "United Methodists" appear to agree that this is not so. The Almighty seems, if anything, to have smiled on Saddam Hussein for a quarter of a century. If we want to assure ourselves of a true "coalition of the willing," we might consider making a pact with the devil.


...which is where we part ways. don't lump me in with the rampant ecumenicism that is the mainline protestant church or the rampant popery that is roman catholicism. most so-called "evangelicals" actually care what the Bible says, and when it says that God has given governments the power, indeed, the obligation, to wield the sword on behalf of justice then i think it means it. the problem isn't that there's too much religion, it's that there's too little. what we have too much of is posturing and diplomacy and trying to please man rather than standing for what the word of God actually says.

i also have philosophical problems with the supposed "gulf between religion and ethics." foremost among these is that, apart from some transcendent moral law, ethics cannot truly exist. atheists can talk about ethics all they like, and they can have a lot of lovely precepts that Christians would even agree with, but it's just talk. it's just a bunch of opinions of men, opinions which provide no compulsion for other men to obey. an atheist may say that ethics is nothing more than the observation that certain standards and practices are beneficial to humanity while others are not, but he cannot provide a reason why anyone should care at all for humanity, other than it just seems like the thing to do. hence not obeying ethical systems, even effective ones, is a perfectly legitimate thing to do. they all drive towards some end, but provide no reason for why that end is a place anyone should want to be.

i'm also not sure how a constitution which talks about "securing the blessings of liberty" could be called "godless" but that's a whole other subject.

all in all, locdog thought hitchens' article said some things that have needed to be said for quite a while





3/10/2003

 

my testimony



my wife and i are finally joining a new church after months of prayer and searching. in addition to sacrificing a goat, selling all we own, moving into the compound in waco, and surrendering our bodies to the service of The Leader, one of the things we have to do to join is write our testimony. i don't know why, so don't bother asking. anyway, i thought that some of you might be interested, so here goes.

i was saved when i was six years old. i remember it very clearly. i was sitting in the back seat of the family car and riding down the winding back road that led to our church, feeling vaguely car-sick as i always did on that road. i was an inquisitive child and i was asking my parents about heaven. one of the things that they explained to me was that, unless i asked Jesus into my heart, i couldn't ever see heaven. whatever it is that causes an idea to make sense to a six-year-old must have kicked in, because somehow i knew they were right. i think it had to have been the Lord speaking to my heart. i closed my eyes and repeated after my parents as they led me in the sinner's prayer. i remember having a grasp of the basic concepts even at that age--i knew that i was a sinner, i knew that i had to ask Jesus to forgive me, and i knew that He died to pay for my sins. i understood that by inviting Jesus into my heart, i would be "saved" and get to go to heaven. what stands out the most about the whole experience is the fervency with which i prayed. i wanted God to know that if i had ever meant any prayer, i surely meant this one. i don't recall any mystical transformation or anything. i guess there isn't much to transform when you are six.

as i grew older, i had an on again/off again relationship with the Lord. i attended a Christian school for a while, and that helped. but it only went to seventh grade, and after that i wound up in a public high school. basically throughout all of my teenage years, and into my early twenties, i lived a life that was more or less indistinguishable from those of my unsaved friends, except that i attended church regularly and knew the jargon well enough to pass even the closest scrutiny.

my relationship with Christ continued to degrade as i finished high school and went on into college to pursue my dreams of someday being a fighter pilot. kid's stuff, right? maybe, but i was serious about it and joined ROTC. i managed to win a full scholarship. i'd shut my family out of my life by that time, and was living completely for myself. girls and friends were the two most important things. in fact it's pretty fair to say that nothing mattered more to me than having a girlfriend. pretty average college stuff, i guess, except that it didn't feel average. it felt horrible. i had a revolving door relationship-pattern in which i'd fall in love with some girl, things wouldn't work out, and i'd immediately go out and find the next. it was all i could do to keep myself from feeling empty. the highs were ok, the lows were horrible.

since i'd given up on family and church, ROTC was the only thing in my life keeping me grounded. things were ok for a while. i went to class and studied. but after a few bad relationships i got distracted, and started falling behind. the further behind i fell, the harder it became to go back. i stopped attending class and spent all my time trying to keep myself amused. my grades plummeted and i was on the verge of losing my scholarship, and my dreams of becoming a fighter pilot.

around this time i became involved with a girl. i fell in love with her and thought that she felt the same way, but she started seeing my best friend behind my back. i ended up losing her, my best friend, and the rest of my circle of friends who had all decided that they would rather be with the new couple than with me. they had to choose one or the other, i guess. by this time i was failing all of my classes and i had lost my scholarship. i had no friends, i wasn't speaking to my family, i had no way to continue paying for my education, and my dream was gone. to make matters worse, the military wanted me to enlist immediately rather than sticking around to finish my degree. i can't blame them. at the rate i was going, it looked like that would never happen.

i felt completely lost and i had nowhere to turn. i cried a lot, and i would lie in bed in the mornings and try to think of a reason to wake up. that went on for a month or so, and then i decided that i would try reading my Bible. i hadn't done so for years. i opened it to the New Testament but i couldn't handle all the preaching, so i flipped back to the Old Testament. i remembered that when i was a kid i really liked the story of david, so i went to the book of Samuel and started reading. i tore through it in a few days and was sad when it was over. i began making rudimentary attempts at prayer, but mostly i would just shout at the ceiling a lot and cry. i wanted to know where God was. if He was real, why wasn't He helping me? i remember that i had the overwhelming sensation that my prayers were weighted down. it was like they were being pressed down against me, like they could rise no further than a few feet above my head. surely, God would not hear me.

about this time, my sister, who was also saved as a child, got serious about her relationship with Christ. she started calling me and we would talk on the phone. if she didn't call me for three or four days, then for three or four days i wouldn't speak to another person, so i was really grateful for her calls. she would pray for me sometimes during these calls, and tell me about all of the exciting things God was doing in her life. it sounded great, but it didn't sound like the sort of thing i could ever have. i'd closed the book on the Lord a long time ago.

although i felt like i couldn't ever go back to God, i also felt like i had nothing to lose by trying. i began driving out from my apartment on sunday mornings to attend church with my family. after a couple of weeks of this, the pastor gave an altar call. i desperately wanted to go down to the altar, but something held me back. i felt very conflicted inside, more than i ever had before. i'd never wanted and feared something so much in my life. the fear won out, but when i left that day i didn't feel relieved at having made a narrow escape, i felt sick. i felt like i had blown my last chance at happiness, and that God would never forgive me. i swore in my heart that i would return to church next sunday, and that if the pastor gave an altar call, i would go down to the altar and surrender my life to Jesus.

he did, and i did. i prayed something like this "my life isn't worth anything to anyone, not even me. but if you want it, it's yours. i'll do what you say." i had resigned myself to this and anticipated the results with dread. maybe i thought God would reject me after my having rejected Him for so long. i don't really remember why i was so worried, but i will never forget how i felt when i stood up from the altar that day. i was shocked by the relief i immediately felt in my heart. joy came from nowhere, it seemed, but ran all through me. day after day, night after night, i was filled with peace and hope. i knew that God loved me, and had answered my prayer. He had accepted my life.

whenever i would run into one of my friends, they would hardly recognize me. one of them said that they couldn't understand how my attitude had changed so much, when my circumstances hadn't changed at all. in some ways they'd actually worsened, but i didn't mind. i had hope. i didn't have to face the problems alone any more. i felt free. i felt free from myself. i felt free from the pride and sin and foolishness that had caused my problems in the first place. i felt free to be the person i'd always wanted to be, but never could. and i felt so new. how can you feel new when a life's worth of negative consequences are hanging over your head? i don't know, but i did. i saw every flower and felt every breeze for the first time. it might sound to you like escapism. it wasn't. i had a better grasp on reality than i ever had in my life. in fact, i would say that for the first time, i saw what reality was really all about. did i ever see. the world that had seemed so familiar to me now seemed so alien. it was like i'd been living in a darkened room, gotten used to it, and then had someone flick on the lights. things were familiar, but different. some of what i thought beautiful was very ugly, some of what i thought ugly was very beautiful. and in a detached sort of way, i marveled at the change that had happened in my own life. how could these things be? it could only be God.

that was about four years ago. things have been hard since then, and i've had my ups and downs. but the Lord has stayed by me and has given me the strength to persevere. He's also given me a lovely wife, opened my eyes to the blessing my family had been all along, and provided me with a lot of other good things that i know i don't deserve. some people will tell you that when you come to Christ, all of your problems go away. that's not true. your problems don't go away, and you'll get a lot of new ones you never even knew existed. it's more like you go away. like the person you were dies, and a new person, the person you always hoped you could be, is born instead. it isn't "turning over a new leaf" or a new year's resolution. it's the power of God changing your life from within. it's living, really living, for the first time ever. it is real, and it's there for anyone.

locdog hopes that maybe this will help someone





 

why france needs to pass the resolution



chirac has been ratcheting up the rhetoric to levels where a veto seems the only possible course. what was it he said? france will use "anything in our power" to stop a war in iraq? something like that.

if you are simple enough to believe that france and germany and russia are motivated by altruism, then i've got a bridge up in brooklyn i'd like to sell you. these nations have long-standing relationships with iraq, particularly france who has fought to weaken inspectors consistently throughout the past decade. but even if france's friendship with saddam hadn't been so well-established, nations always seem to do that which is in their own best interests. and as an aside, it is a rare historical pleasure that the united states has an opportunity to pursue our best interests while helping others as well--oh, wait. we've been doing that for a century now.

the irony of the no-blood-for-oil protest is that those nations leading the charge against war are the ones who seem most clearly motivated by oil, cash, or other cynical self-interests. i am also of the opinion that when we invade iraq, not only will we find banned weapons and/or research programs, but we will also find that our friends in france, and perhaps germany and russia, have been helping out saddam all along in exchange for cash or fuel. just follow the money.

so here's the deal, france. come clean. fess up, come clean, and pass this resolution. if you don't, we go to war anyways and you are embarrassed in front of the whole world. your diplomatic influence--which is basically all you have left--won't be worth two figs. and even if no embarrassing evidence is uncovered, your boy in iraq has still been ousted from power, leaving you with no influence and no oil.

on the other hand, if you pass the resolution, then you can be forgiven your sins. if need be, chirac can make speeches about amends and all that. after all, we here in the states (in one of the most shameful decisions in american history) equipped hussein with the very weapons we now go to destroy. nobody's perfect, france, but if you make a mistake, don't stick your head under the mud like a pig rooting for truffles. own up to it like a man. we'll let you make your typical, mostly-for-show contribution to the effort, and at the end of the day you'll have retained your honor and influence in the sight of the world, plus you'll stand a better chance of coming to terms with the new iraqi government.

saddam is gone one way or the other, france. that's reality, and you have absolutely zero power to change it. but when it comes to perceptions, you have all the power you need. so if you hope to matter at all in the coming years, you should pass this resolution.

not that locdog really cares, but hey, it'll help tony blair out and he's been great