Sunday, October 23, 2005

I have been thinking about all that needs to be done to create a peaceful and stable Iraq. It is not enough that most Sunni's refuse to support the terrorists - they must consider them criminals and respect the government enough to report their presence and support their arrest. Their are many bars to such trust. If it is realy true that the Badr organization has nothing to do with the murders of former Baath party members, this must be demonstrated. If it is false, they must be prosecuted.

I don't know if the Iraqi government really has this power, or if even the attempt would mean a war with militias more powerful than they are. But the task of nation building is daunting indeed.

I'm pretty much convinced that the Bush administration, which constantly talks of progress while ignoring the alleged murders by the Badr Brigades, trying neither to prove nor disprove them, is not up to this challenge. Sometimes I wonder if liberal Democrats are up to it either.

In the United States, liberal Democrats certainly know what it's like to try and form a broad based government alongside large religious groups which neither trust nor respect them. Many of the same people who indignantly reject Bush's request that they take Harriet Miers literally 'on faith' seem to feel anyone who is worried by W.'s claim that his foreign policy is dictated by God must be anti-Evangelical. This partisan division might be difficult for some to handle, but if we really have the right stuff to earn the trust of both sides in Iraq and help them to trust each other, healing this division should be no problem for us - right?

Even if I personally am not up to it, at least I've found a lot of interesting stuff trying to learn about it. Both of these approaches to the problem of school bullying seem to have worked better than what I did when I was in grade school.

Last year our oldest son, Nathan, a freshman tackle on his Christian school's football team, reluctantly told me after a long ride home from an away game that the trip had been awful because of a blasphemous upper class player who had terrorized and stolen from freshmen teammates the entire trip home.

I knew Nathan had himself been picked on by this boy for much of the football season, so I was interested to learn how he had responded. "What did you do while he was doing those things?" I asked.

"I pretended to sleep," he said.

I was disappointed by Nathan's response and told him so.

I told him first that I believed he had failed as a man of God by ignoring hours of bullying and blasphemy. We had spoken to the coach about the problem earlier in the season and nothing had come of it. Nate and I knew that no adult was going to stop the upperclassman. We also knew that Nathan was easily big enough, even as a fourteen-year-old freshman, to stop the older boy physically. (Nate was nearly six feet tall and bench-pressing 250 pounds as a freshman)

I told him it was his job to protect younger and smaller boys from bullying, that he was big enough he would never need to fight just for himself but if he saw smaller boys being mistreated, he should insert himself physically and serve as their protector. I further told him to defend the name of God when it was blasphemed by boys at this Christian school, if necessary, by using his body to pressure the blasphemer into silence.

In essence, I told him to protect those who could not defend themselves--the same thing we've always expected him to do for his younger brothers and sisters--and to stand for Christ against the tide of blasphemers.

Because Nathan is so big and so strong, I urged him not to defend himself. "If they pick on you, they're just trying to show off," I said, "so ignore them. But God has given you responsibility with your size and strength: you're to stick up for those who are mistreated. You're to prevent supposedly Christian young men at a school named for Christ from blaspheming the name of God."

Some months later Nate was in the weight room when this bully began physically mistreating another freshman. Nate told the boy to stop. When he didn't, Nate went to him, lifted him against the wall and told him with trembling voice not to hurt freshmen again. The bully mocked Nate, but from that point on he left freshmen alone. No violence, no blows, but a righteous use of strength to intervene against wickedness, I was happy for his courage.

Of course it could have happened rather differently. David's co-blogger suggested another approach.

I was about to tell Joseph to go punch the ringleader's lights out when it occurred to me that in a little while we were having an elders meeting in our home and this was a good group of men to get counsel from (smile)...

So when the elders arrived, I asked them to listen to Joseph's story and give him counsel.

When Joseph finished telling his story, there were a few noncommittal responses, then Wayne Huck spoke up and asked Joseph, "Have you prayed about it?"

I hope you won't judge me harshly as a father, but Joseph answered, "No."

Wayne, also a Presbyterian pastor's son, then told his own story. He had been similarly tormented both in school and on the way home, and he didn't know what to do. Then he took it to the Lord in prayer and Jesus heard and answered his prayer, and the tormenting stopped that very day. Finishing his story, Wayne gently suggested to Joseph that he pray about the situation, asking God to handle it for him.

We stopped for prayer and each of the men present prayed for Joseph, that the Lord would handle the situation for him and that he would honor the Lord in whatever he did. Joseph joined in the prayer and the tormenting stopped--just like that.

I can't remember the exact circumstances, except that God strengthened Joseph's and Wayne's and all the elders' and my faith by answering our prayers. And that's another tactic wholly compatible with David's teaching. Prayer and punching a bully and blasphemer's lights out are wholly compatible. But as always, we start with prayer.

The really interesting part is many of the most profoundly religious Evangelicals don't consider themselves part of the conservative movement - I'm still formulating that post in my mind though.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

I just read an excellent essay on the history and meaning of Halloween and the history of the belief that it is associated with Satanism, posted on Exultate Justi by Jared Keller, who used to believe the latter but no longer does. The essay is partly autobiographical and fun to read despite being chock full of references because they are all worked into the text - and because most of the writers referred to are interesting in themselves, in good and bad ways.

The author still has a perspective far from mine (and probably most of the readers who may happen on this post) as you'll see from two of the final paragraphs quoted below, but having observed the quality of his thinking, I can only wonder - if some of his beliefs are wrong, which of mine are?

Part of my frustration with Warnke, and with the entire Bob Larson school of demonology, is that it detracts from the real and present threat that Satan poses to believers and non-believers alike. Scripture is very clear in pointing out that we have a very real enemy who works actively for our destruction. Angels are real...demons are real, and they do, indeed, battle. There are two sides to the spiritual (on a side note, don't ever assume that merely because something is described as "spiritual", it's inherently good) - and they are engaged in a fight.

In turning the matter of spiritual warfare into a gimmick for revenue generation and cheap sideshow displays, and in the use of spiritual gifts (tongues, prophecy, etc.) as "special effects" for these displays, too many Christians make it easy for more rational folk to dismiss the existence of Satan - and of a spiritual realm, in general - out-of-hand. There is likely nothing Satan likes better than for a Bob Larson or a Benny Hinn to go on and on making baseless claims involving casting out demons of "poverty", or claims that thousands of people are killed every year by satanic covens. Such distractions offer Satan cover under which he may operate undetected, and unopposed.

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Saturday, October 08, 2005

[Top paragraph edited lightly a couple of days after posting to remove exaggerated rhetoric]

A few of them say that New Orleans was destroyed by God - and more seem to assent by their silence. Others among them said the same about the 9/11 attacks. Many would say it's futile to ask why they hate us, but some say the destiny of our nation depends on it. Fortunately English is the first language of the vast majority of them, so we can read their blogs to help us understand how they think.

I refer, of course, to red state Evangelicals.

I've googled my way through a fair number of them. My unscientific sampling technique is to keep reading those I find interesting and readable. I'm not sure what biases this introduces, but I'm pretty sure neither the ones I am closest to agreeing with or the ones I disagree with most strongly.

This post from Baylyblog caught my eye first, since it combines strong religious belief with an interesting fair mindedness:

Sadly, were it not for the secular media's reporting, we would not likely know of Dollar's twin Rolls Royces, Warren's "mentoring" of Jack Welch or Jenkin's penchant for asking Left Behind readers on planes if they think he looks like one of the authors, then informing them, "Well, I really am the author!"

The sadness is of two sorts: first, there's the sadness of such Christian gullibility and vanity displayed before the world. But then, as well, there is the sadness of truly sinful behaviour and heterodox belief being exposed first (and sometimes solely) in the secular press.

Christian leaders and Christian media do a terrible job of judging within the House of God. We are excellent at calling out the obvious sins of the world yet blinkered when it comes to our own. Where is the Christian leader, who like Paul confronting Peter at Antioch, has stood publicly to call another prominent Christian leader to account? It happens so rarely that more often than not the first we read of the failures of our Christian leaders is in the secular media.

Where is the Christian leader who has stood to condemn the false ecclesiology and corrupt Gospel at the heart of Willow Creek? Where is the Christian leader who has opposed Bill Hybels for preaching a man-centered Gospel as Paul opposed Peter? Is there any question that Willow Creek's seeker-sensitive worship is a corruption of Biblical worship, that Willow Creek's Gospel is human salvation accomplished by human agency with the aid of Divine grace?

Clearly very different beliefs than mine - but not an ideologue or a broken record. Starting from the top (more recent then the post I just quoted which first caused me to bookmark this blog) I read many standard red state ideas - but also posts which make me feel the gap was not unbridgeable. Can a train hobbyist who reads the New Yorker and likes the Beatles really have no common ground with the rest of us at all? If he knows how railroad workers talk, it's a tiny step to feeling the Beatles had something worthwhile even if they may have committed fornication once in awhile. Tim Bayley doesn't take it explicitly but ...

So this comes as a bit of a shock.

And when deniers of God's wrath in the elements of nature tell us that all have sinned and fallen under Divine judgment, not just the citizens of New Orleans or San Francisco, we must be able to say, "Yes, but..." and quickly point to the lessons inherent in the stories of Sodom, Gomorrah, Nineveh and Jerusalem.


Proof that cities are judged corporately for sin, and that the sins of one city can provoke greater Divine wrath than the sins of another:

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. “Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. “And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. “Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.” (Matthew 11:21-24, NASB95)

The ellipses between paragraphs are mine: you can click through to read the whole post.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Countercolumn links to and discusses a very serious case of military ignorance by Associated Press. He also forgets to mention how dependent Fox news is on AP.