Present Realities

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I hurried away to the white hall of Phantasy, heedless of the innumerable forms of beauty that crowded my way: these might cross my eyes, but the unseen filled my brain. I wandered long, up and down the silent space: no songs came. My soul was not still enough for songs. Only in the silence and darkness of the soul’s night, do those stars of the inward firmament sink to its lower surface from the singing realms beyond, and shine upon the conscious spirit. here all effort was unavailing. If they came not, they could not be found.

George MacDonald, Phantastes


Yom Kippur

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The Day of Atonement. The day when the sacrifice was made for all.

Leviticus 23:26 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 27 Now, the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement; it shall be a holy convocation for you: you shall deny yourselves and present the LORD’s offering by fire; 28 and you shall do no work during that entire day; for it is a day of atonement, to make atonement on your behalf before the LORD your God. 29 For anyone who does not practice self-denial during that entire day shall be cut off from the people. 30 And anyone who does any work during that entire day, such a one I will destroy from the midst of the people. 31 You shall do no work: it is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your settlements. 32 It shall be to you a sabbath of complete rest, and you shall deny yourselves; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening you shall keep your sabbath.

Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish Calendar. Christians believe that the sacrifice commemorated on this day was fulfilled by Yeshua on the Roman Cross. That being the case does not mean we should not acknowledge the day. The Book of Hebrews notes (NRSV):

Hebrews 2:1 Therefore we must pay greater attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. 2 For if the message declared through angels was valid, and every transgression or disobedience received a just penalty, 3 how can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? It was declared at first through the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him, 4 while God added his testimony by signs and wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, distributed according to his will.

5 Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels. 6 But someone has testified somewhere,
“”What are human beings that you are mindful of them,
or mortals, that you care for them?
7 You have made them for a little while lower than the angels;
you have crowned them with glory and honor, 8 subjecting all things under their feet.” Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, 9 but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

10 It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 11 For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, 12 saying,
“”I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters,
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.” 13 And again,
“”I will put my trust in him.” And again,
“”Here am I and the children whom God has given me.”

14 Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. 16 For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.

3:1 Therefore, brothers and sisters, holy partners in a heavenly calling, consider that Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, 2 was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses also “was faithful in all God’s house.” 3 Yet Jesus is worthy of more glory than Moses, just as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. 4 (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) 5 Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that would be spoken later. 6 Christ, however, was faithful over God’s house as a son, and we are his house if we hold firm the confidence and the pride that belong to hope.
7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,
“”Today, if you hear his voice,
8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
as on the day of testing in the wilderness,
9 where your ancestors put me to the test,
though they had seen my works 10 for forty years.
Therefore I was angry with that generation,
and I said, “They always go astray in their hearts,
and they have not known my ways.’
11 As in my anger I swore,
“They will not enter my rest.’ ”

12 Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have become partners of Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end.

That we are forgiven and cleansed is true. That we should take time and consider what this means, mourn for our fallen state and offer praise for our redemption is also true. From sundown tonight to sundown tomorrow, this is a holy day for all of us. Spend it wisely, spend it well. Remember the God who calls you, the God who runs after you, the God who asks everything from you, and the God who gives more than you can possibly imagine. The Three-in-One has brought salvation, and for that should be praised and honored.

Happy Fall

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At 9:30 this morning (Pacific time), summer ended. It is now Autumn, the season of changing leaves, happy birthdays, and cooler weather.

May this be a season of new life as well.

Happy Autumn. Spend it well.


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I know… partisan political comments…

But this is funny, and true, that’s worth a lot in my book:

These aren’t the droids I’m looking for


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Max Boot writes an excellent article in today’s LA Times

History Can Offer Bush Hope …

John Kerry is right to accuse President Bush of “colossal failures of judgment” in Iraq. These range from decisions taken in the early days of the occupation, such as the premature disbanding of Iraq’s army, to more recent missteps, such as allowing Fallouja to become a terrorist sanctuary.

Reading the depressing headlines, one is tempted to ask: Has any president in U.S. history ever botched a war or its aftermath so badly?

Actually, yes. Most wartime presidents have made catastrophic blunders, from James Madison losing his capital to the British in 1814 to Harry Truman getting embroiled with China in 1950. Errors tend to shrink in retrospect if committed in a winning cause (Korea); they get magnified in a losing one (Vietnam).

Despite all that’s gone wrong so far, Iraq could still go either way. (In one recent poll, 51% of Iraqis said their country was headed in “the right direction”; only 31% felt it was going the wrong way.)

Lest we be too hard on Bush, it’s useful to recall the travails of the nation’s two most successful commanders in chief, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt.

Lincoln is remembered, of course, for winning the Civil War and freeing the slaves. We tend to forget that along the way he lost more battles than any other president: First and Second Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Chickamauga…. The list of federal defeats was long and dispiriting. So was the list of federal victories (e.g., Antietam, Gettysburg) that could have been exploited to shorten the conflict, but weren’t.

As the Union’s fortunes fell, opponents tarred Lincoln with invective that might make even Michael Moore blush. Harper’s magazine called him a “despot, liar, thief, braggart, buffoon, usurper, monster, ignoramus.” As late as the summer of 1864, Lincoln appeared likely to lose his bid for reelection. Only the fall of Atlanta on Sept. 2 saved his presidency.

Most of the Union’s failures were because of inept generalship, but it was Lincoln who chose the generals, including many political appointees with scant military experience. He ultimately won the war only by backing Ulysses Grant’s brutal attritional tactics that have often been criticized as sheer butchery.

Roosevelt had more than his share of mistakes too, the most notorious being his failure to prevent the attack on Pearl Harbor, even though U.S. code breakers had given him better intelligence than Bush had before Sept. 11. FDR also did not do enough to prepare the armed forces for war, and then pushed them into early offensives at Guadalcanal and North Africa that took a heavy toll on inexperienced troops. At Kasserine Pass, Tunisia, in 1943, the U.S. Army was mauled by veteran German units, losing more than 6,000 soldiers.

The Allies went on to win the war but still suffered many snafus, such as Operation Market Garden, a failed airborne assault on Holland in September 1944, and the Battle of the Bulge three months later, when a massive German onslaught in the Ardennes caught U.S. troops napping.

Though FDR bore only indirect responsibility for most of these screw-ups, he was more directly culpable for other bad calls, such as the decision to detain 120,000 Japanese Americans without any proof of their disloyalty. Like Lincoln, who jailed suspected Southern sympathizers without trial, Roosevelt was guilty of civil liberties restrictions that were light-years beyond the Patriot Act. And, like Bush, Roosevelt didn’t do enough to prepare for the postwar period. His failure to occupy more of Eastern Europe before the Red Army arrived consigned millions to tyranny; his failure to plan for the future of Korea and Vietnam after the Japanese left helped lead to two wars that killed 100,000 Americans.

None of this is meant in any way to denigrate the inspired leadership of two great presidents. Both Lincoln and Roosevelt were brilliant wartime leaders precisely because they were able to overcome adversity and inspire the country toward ultimate victory with their unflagging will to win. That’s what Bush is trying to do today.

And, no, I’m not suggesting Bush is another Lincoln or Roosevelt. But even if Bush hasn’t reached their lofty heights, neither has he experienced their depths of despair. We are losing one or two soldiers a day in Iraq. Lincoln lost an average of 250 daily for four years, Roosevelt 300 daily for more than 3 1/2 years. If they could overcome such numbing losses to prevail against far more formidable foes than we face now, it’s ludicrous to give in to today’s fashionable funk.

“Colossal failures of judgment” are to be expected in wartime; I daresay even John Kerry (whose judgment on Iraq changes every 30 minutes) might commit a few. They do not have to spell defeat now any more than they did in 1865 or 1945.

How the war is going is not the question to me. What is important to discuss concerns whether it’s for a good cause and whether it will in fact make the world better for future generations. Should the Iraqi people eventually rid themselves of the present invaders, namely Syrian or other Muslim malcontents, they will find themselves much better off than the rest of the Middle East. The war has gone well, comparatively to every other war in the history of the world. That the comparison is to some unheard of ideal rather than reality is simply a fact of partisan rhetoric.

Yes, there have been mistakes, but isn’t it time the mistakes were due to acting rather than not acting? This is not Vietnam, and because of right and good decisions, it seems like this won’t be WWII or the Civil War. Those became devastating because leaders at key points did nothing, did less than nothing. Wars have troubles, and I pray that we do not give up because some of our own political leaders see troubles as a reason to skip out on doing what is right.

bias anyone?

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President Bush gave a major speech at the United Nations today.

He said a lot of things, very important things.

The top reuters article limits its coverage to a minor point.

The full paragraphs of his point on the matter are a little more balanced:

This commitment to democratic reform is essential to resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict. Peace will not be achieved by Palestinian rulers who intimidate opposition, tolerate corruption, and maintain ties to terrorist groups. The longsuffering Palestinian people deserve better. They deserve true leaders capable of creating and governing a free and peaceful Palestinian state.

Even after the setbacks and frustrations of recent months, goodwill and hard effort can achieve the promise of the road map to peace. Those who would lead a new Palestinian state should adopt peaceful means to achieve the rights of their people, and create the reformed institutions of a stable democracy. Arab states should end incitement in their own media, cut off public and private funding for terrorism, and establish normal relations with Israel. Israel should impose a settlement freeze, dismantle unauthorized outposts, end the daily humiliation of the Palestinian people, and avoid any actions that prejudice final negotiations. And world leaders should withdraw all favor and support from any Palestinian ruler who fails his people and betrays their cause.

But, I guess as we’ve learned over the last couple of weeks, the media is better at portraying its peculiar bent than actually reporting the news.

By the by, I used the link for the speech because no other place I found had the complete text. Fair and balanced is oftentimes gained by letting people speak for themselves. Reuters needs to learn that.

Good speech overall. Hard to argue with. We’ll see if it has any results. Should Bush get more UN involvement this campaign season really is over. Like I’ve said so many times before, Bush is hard to run against because he will take all his opponents good ideas and put them into practice.

How do you argue with someone who is already doing everything you say should be done?

— a sidenote on that last link. The first paragraph states that the ‘mission was not accomplished’. The second paragraph states that the military performed brilliantly in accomplishing the ‘first’ mission in Iraq. Isn’t that exactly Bush’s point on the matter?

Swaggart’s position

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Jimmy Swaggart has made the news again, and again he has embarrassed the Church. Professor Volokh asks whether this is something Christians really accept, and if it is not why we do not denounce Jimmy Swaggart.

Of course, the reason for this is that Jimmy Swaggart has been denounced for a long time within the Christian world. He is a heretic on many levels, and so it seems extraneous to renounce someone who has no voice or authority within the Evangelical world.

However, this being said, it seems from Professor Volokh and others on the web that our perspective on Swaggart is not clear. So for these words specifically, Swaggart should be denounced. That he could even think of killing someone and lying to God about it, let alone say this in front of a congregation is beyond the pale of any semblance of Christian thought. Whether meant as a joke or not, these kinds of words justify the bias much of the world has against the church, a bias not against our Christlike positions, but against precisely our non-Christlike positions. That those outside the church have a richer grasp of the Christian ethic in this regard than someone who has had a purported ministry for as long as Swaggart is sad.

He has long disgraced himself, disgraced the church, and speaks words for God that God does not speak.

Yes, there are moral questions dealing with the issue of homosexuality. However, there are deeper moral issues at play here which relate to the love of God for all people. Swaggart despises those who God loves and treasures. Swaggart condemns those who God wants to save. Swaggart rejects those who, even with their particular flaws, are made in the very image of God.

Swaggart isn’t simply wrong, he’s a heretic. Heretics speak for God in a way which does not reflect God. They make God into their own image, and in rejecting his care for those in this world they reject the work of the Holy Spirit who yearns for all in this world.

Volokh suggests that if Christians disagree they should denounce Swaggarts words. I do. And I have.

Like I was saying…

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There are still those who dream the American dream, and it is a wonderful gift that they no longer have to emigrate to America to dream it.

May God help them indeed.

History and War

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Over 7,000 men lost their lives on a single day of battle at Antietam Creek during the Civil War. This was considered enough of a victory that Lincoln felt comfortable issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, thus mandating freedom for all slaves in rebellious states. It took another two and a half years to fully enforce.

About 8,000 men lost their lives during the three days of Gettysburg, about 3200 of these were Union soldiers. This was considered such a monumental union victory that Lincoln was swept into office after a rather close campaign. Lee and the Confederate Army were beaten, and never really recovered. This battle was the day in which the Civil War was essentially won. It took another year to end the war officially.

110,070 Union soldiers died in battle alone, another 250,152 died from disease or other causes.

About 19,000 Americans lost their lives in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. The war had already been essentially won, with this being the last gasp of the German Army.

6,800 US marines lost their lives attacking the beach of Iwo Jima, where the heroic flag raising will long be remembered. This was about a third of the total attacking force. The capture of other islands were likewise costly.

The lists can go on and on.

A little over a thousand Americans have died in Iraq over the past year. The news is telling us that all is bad, that we are in a quagmire, another Vietnam.

Yet, Vietnam has some differences. For this to be like Vietnam we would have had to conquer Hanoi, depose the north Vietnamese government, capture the entire leadership, settle arrangements with the borders, and begin the process of rebuilding the entire army and security structure, with the intention of having full democratic votes. Had Vietnam been like the present situation this would have all taken place by 1965, without ever depending on a draft.

However, a curious change has taken place within the hearts of many in this country. There are no causes which are ‘worth it’. Had this been the attitude over the course of American history, there would be no American history to begin with, for England wasn’t all that bad. Or had that happened there would be two countries called America, one United, one a Confederacy. Countless more Jews would have died, and Europe would have been unified much as Stalin unified the USSR.

The problem, and this is new in history, is that those citizens not on the battlefields are the chief detractors. This began in Vietnam, now everything is “Vietnam” merely because men with guns go out to fight, without any reference to real comparisons.

In past wars deserters could be shot, most weren’t. Now, those deserters never go to the battlefield, they desert the Cause of American liberty in their own homes, so afraid of death and eternity themselves they can see no greater reality of Justice which would cause a man to die for something higher. They break down morale. They assault any change of prospects, they change history for their own purposes.

The time for debating war is before it starts. Once begun the only quick way is to finish the job and learn the lessons for next time. The lessons of World War II came into play this time. We learned what happens when you trust the word of a man intent on evil and destruction. People die, more if the world waits.

We have a situation where people cannot believe in themselves, so they transfer their innate weakness to others… fighting supposedly for soldiers who they really revile.

Yes, things are not well in Iraq. But, the mission was accomplished. What we see there are foreign fighters attacking the current government. The mission has changed over the many months, we are now defending a functioning sovereign government. For a cause which has only Freedom on its banner.

People die for all sorts of stupid reasons. 17,013 people died in 2003 from Alcohol related deaths. That is stupid. That is useless. I don’t see any Michael Moore movies about this. Men and women are dying in Iraq for the simple reason to help Iraq be free from tyranny and able to rule itself without power hungry clerics using the voice of God for their own ambitions. That is a cause. When it is done they will come home and be a new generation of heroes.

I’m increasingly seeing little difference between the physical bombs which are planted under cars in Iraq and the rhetorical bombs which are launched for partisan reasons and because an increasingly higher number of people in this country have no cause beyond themselves worth living for.

It’s sad. While I appreciate the role these people play in making politicians think about going to war, I find I’m less and less understanding of the heart which rejects all things American and still can consider themselves patriotic. America is the fight for Freedom. America is the symbol of oppressed people making their way in this world, no longer encumbered by tyrants. We’ve had a long, bumpy path to get here, but we are closer than ever, and want the same for the rest of the world.

And this road has meant people die. This lofty cause means that men and women have given their lives so that their children can live in a better world, and most wonderfully so that the children of others can also live in freedom.

Yes, soldiers still are dying and it is not a rosy picture in Iraq. But, had Americans of generations past had the same attitude of defeat that present Americans have, the greatest steps in establishing freedoms throughout this world would have never been accomplished.

I do not want to be the generation that is remembered for failing the Cause on which America is built. There are realities which are greater than my life, there are causes for which I would give my life. That is the American tradition. May it continue and may the voices who reject this be lost in the shadows of history.

Politics curiously defined

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So, I’ve developed a bad habit these last couple of weeks. My surge of political commentary has subsided, but my interest has not as much. I write for a bit, then take little breaks. JK Rowling says she uses such breaks to play minesweeper. I’m more of a freecell guy when it comes to microsoft games, but even that has been pushed aside as I float amidst the rising currents of the blogosphere.

Now, what follows is a rampant generalization, based solely on my experiences without any sort of scientific analysis. That being said… left wing bloggers or comments on blogs tend to cuss a lot more and be a lot more vulgar than right wing blogs. If there is a swear word I can almost guarantee what will follow will be some purported support of John Kerry. I don’t mean this as some kind of slam or attack. I have simply noted this as being curious.

Right leaning thinkers have their foibles, and just as easy will attack or obfuscate depending on the issue. But they don’t cuss. And while they may be wrong, it’s usual a logical or perspective problem they suggest.. while the left leaning writers tend more towards personal attack and dismissal.

Obviously, I have my own defined views on politics, so maybe I’m simply making an error myself. I’m just saying, you know…