Friday, March 28, 2008

Matt 24 watch, 51: Easter Conversions

CORRECTION: Thanks to Ilion, who has corrected me in a comment below. I therefore adjust the following.


Just before the Easter, Mr Mikhail Gorbachev was reported to have announced to the world that he had for decades been a secret Christian, on the occasion of his pilgrimage to the tomb of the Saint he looked to for inspiration, Francis of Assisi.

However, while the reports were in organs of generally reliable media houses, he has subsequently
denied the reports. Church officials said that he visited St Francis of Assisi's tomb, but only as a tourist. They asked for prayer for the former Soviet leader.

And, while there are indubitably serious issues and challenges in Roman Catholic expressions of the Christian faith [as there are in Protestant and Orthodox expressions too], we must recognise that over the centuries there has also been a light of authentic Christian witness in that expression of the common Christian faith, and
this is now seen in an actual conversion over the Easter.

For, on the Saturday before Easter, the Pope baptised a formerly Muslim Italian journalist during Easter Vigil Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, stirring the usual wave of Islamic protests. However, it is also significant to note the testimony of that Journalist, Magdi Allam, in a letter to the Italian press:

Yesterday evening I converted to the Christian Catholic religion, renouncing my previous Islamic faith. Thus, I finally saw the light, by divine grace -- the healthy fruit of a long, matured gestation, lived in suffering and joy, together with intimate reflection and conscious and manifest expression. I am especially grateful to his holiness Pope Benedict XVI, who imparted the sacraments of Christian initiation to me, baptism, confirmation and Eucharist, in the Basilica of St. Peter’s during the course of the solemn celebration of the Easter Vigil. And I took the simplest and most explicit Christian name: “Cristiano.” Since yesterday evening therefore my name is Magdi Crisitano Allam.

For me it is the most beautiful day of [my] life. To acquire the gift of the Christian faith during the commemoration of Christ’s resurrection by the hand of the Holy Father is, for a believer, an incomparable and inestimable privilege. At almost 56 […], it is a historical, exceptional and unforgettable event, which marks a radical and definitive turn with respect to the past. The miracle of Christ’s resurrection reverberated through my soul, liberating it from the darkness in which the preaching of hatred and intolerance in the face of the “different,” uncritically condemned as “enemy,” were privileged over love and respect of “neighbor,” who is always, an in every case, “person”; thus, as my mind was freed from the obscurantism of an ideology that legitimates lies and deception, violent death that leads to murder and suicide, the blind submission to tyranny, I was able to adhere to the authentic religion of truth, of life and of freedom.

On my first Easter as a Christian I not only discovered Jesus, I discovered for the first time the face of the true and only God, who is the God of faith and reason . . .
Sadly, Mr Allam was also forced to remark on not only the immediate wave of Islamist protests, but also on the longstanding opposition her faced as an avowedly moderate Muslim. In so doing made telling reference to Pope Benedict's watershed, much denounced, but plainly at length telling, Regensberg lecture:

. . . I had to ask myself about the attitude of those who publicly declared fatwas, Islamic juridical verdicts, against me -- I who was a Muslim -- as an “enemy of Islam,” “hypocrite because he is a Coptic Christian who pretends to be a Muslim to do damage to Islam,” “liar and vilifier of Islam,” legitimating my death sentence in this way. I asked myself how it was possible that those who, like me, sincerely and boldly called for a “moderate Islam,” assuming the responsibility of exposing themselves in the first person in denouncing Islamic extremism and terrorism, ended up being sentenced to death in the name of Islam on the basis of the Quran. I was forced to see that, beyond the contingency of the phenomenon of Islamic extremism and terrorism that has appeared on a global level, the root of evil is inherent in an Islam that is physiologically violent and historically conflictive.

At the same time providence brought me to meet practicing Catholics of good will who, in virtue of their witness and friendship, gradually became a point of reference in regard to the certainty of truth and the solidity of values . . . . But undoubtedly the most extraordinary and important encounter in my decision to convert was that with Pope Benedict XVI, whom I admired and defended as a Muslim for his mastery in setting down the indissoluble link between faith and reason as a basis for authentic religion and human civilization, and to whom I fully adhere as a Christian to inspire me with new light in the fulfillment of the mission God has reserved for me.
Perhaps the most challenging portion of Magdi Crisitano Allam's letter reads:

Dear Director, you asked me whether I fear for my life, in the awareness that conversion to Christianity will certainly procure for me yet another, and much more grave, death sentence for apostasy. You are perfectly right. I know what I am headed for but I face my destiny with my head held high, standing upright and with the interior solidity of one who has the certainty of his faith. And I will be more so after the courageous and historical gesture of the Pope, who, as soon has he knew of my desire, immediately agreed to personally impart the Christian sacraments of initiation to me. His Holiness has sent an explicit and revolutionary message to a Church that until now has been too prudent in the conversion of Muslims, abstaining from proselytizing in majority Muslim countries and keeping quiet about the reality of converts in Christian countries. Out of fear. The fear of not being able to protect converts in the face of their being condemned to death for apostasy and fear of reprisals against Christians living in Islamic countries. Well, today Benedict XVI, with his witness, tells us that we must overcome fear and not be afraid to affirm the truth of Jesus even with Muslims.

For my part, I say that it is time to put an end to the abuse and the violence of Muslims who do not respect the freedom of religious choice. In Italy there are thousands of converts to Islam who live their new faith in peace. But there are also thousands of Muslim converts to Christianity who are forced to hide their faith out of fear of being assassinated by Islamic extremists who lurk among us. By one of those “fortuitous events” that evoke the discreet hand of the Lord, the first article that I wrote for the Corriere on Sept. 3, 2003 was entitled “The new Catacombs of Islamic Converts.” It was an investigation of recent Muslim converts to Christianity in Italy who decry their profound spiritual and human solitude in the face of absconding state institutions that do not protect them and the silence of the Church itself. Well, I hope that the Pope’s historical gesture and my testimony will lead to the conviction that the moment has come to leave the darkness of the catacombs and to publicly declare their desire to be fully themselves. If in Italy, in our home, the cradle of Catholicism, we are not prepared to guarantee complete religious freedom to everyone, how can we ever be credible when we denounce the violation of this freedom elsewhere in the world?
It is plain, that, in the end, violence is self-defeating. But, along the way, it is appallingly destructive.

At the same time, we should also note on the secrets of the unprecedented success of the on-TV evangelistic work of Egyptian Coptic Priest Zakaria Botros:
Though he is little known in the West, Coptic priest Zakaria Botros — named Islam’s “Public Enemy #1” by the Arabic newspaper, al-Insan al-Jadid — has been making waves in the Islamic world. Along with fellow missionaries — mostly Muslim converts — he appears frequently on the Arabic channel al-Hayat (i.e., “Life TV”). There, he addresses controversial topics of theological significance — free from the censorship imposed by Islamic authorities or self-imposed through fear of the zealous mobs who fulminated against the infamous cartoons of Mohammed. Botros’s excurses on little-known but embarrassing aspects of Islamic law and tradition have become a thorn in the side of Islamic leaders throughout the Middle East.

Botros is an unusual figure onscreen: robed, with a huge cross around his neck, he sits with both the Koran and the Bible in easy reach. Egypt’s Copts — members of one of the oldest Christian communities in the Middle East — have in many respects come to personify the demeaning Islamic institution of “dhimmitude” (which demands submissiveness from non-Muslims, in accordance with Koran 9:29). But the fiery Botros does not submit, and minces no words. He has famously made of Islam “ten demands,” whose radical nature he uses to highlight Islam’s own radical demands on non-Muslims.

The result? Mass conversions to Christianity — if clandestine ones. The very public conversion of high-profile Italian journalist Magdi Allam — who was baptized by Pope Benedict in Rome on Saturday — is only the tip of the iceberg. Indeed, Islamic cleric Ahmad al-Qatani stated on al-Jazeera TV a while back that some six million Muslims convert to Christianity annually, many of them persuaded by Botros’s public ministry. More recently, al-Jazeera noted Life TV’s “unprecedented evangelical raid” on the Muslim world.
What are his key success factors? As Raymond Ibrahim continues:
First, the new media — particularly satellite TV and the Internet (the main conduits for Life TV) — have made it possible for questions about Islam to be made public without fear of reprisal. It is unprecedented to hear Muslims from around the Islamic world — even from Saudi Arabia, where imported Bibles are confiscated and burned — call into the show to argue with Botros and his colleagues, and sometimes, to accept Christ.

Secondly, Botros’s broadcasts are in Arabic — the language of some 200 million people, most of them Muslim. While several Western writers have published persuasive critiques of Islam, their arguments go largely unnoticed in the Islamic world. Botros’s mastery of classical Arabic not only allows him to reach a broader audience, it enables him to delve deeply into the voluminous Arabic literature — much of it untapped by Western writers who rely on translations — and so report to the average Muslim on the discrepancies and affronts to moral common sense found within this vast corpus.

A third reason for Botros’s success is that his polemical technique has proven irrefutable. Each of his episodes has a theme — from the pressing to the esoteric — often expressed as a question (e.g., “Is jihad an obligation for all Muslims?”; “Are women inferior to men in Islam?”; “Did Mohammed say that adulterous female monkeys should be stoned?” “Is drinking the urine of prophets salutary according to sharia?”). To answer the question, Botros meticulously quotes — always careful to give sources and reference numbers — from authoritative Islamic texts on the subject, starting from the Koran; then from the canonical sayings of the prophet — the Hadith; and finally from the words of prominent Muslim theologians past and present — the illustrious ulema.

Typically, Botros’s presentation of the Islamic material is sufficiently detailed that the controversial topic is shown to be an airtight aspect of Islam. Yet, however convincing his proofs, Botros does not flatly conclude that, say, universal jihad or female inferiority are basic tenets of Islam. He treats the question as still open — and humbly invites the ulema, the revered articulators of sharia law, to respond and show the error in his methodology. He does demand, however, that their response be based on “al-dalil we al-burhan,” — “evidence and proof,” one of his frequent refrains — not shout-downs or sophistry.

More often than not, the response from the ulema is deafening silence — which has only made Botros and Life TV more enticing to Muslim viewers. The ulema who have publicly addressed Botros’s conclusions often find themselves forced to agree with him — which has led to some amusing (and embarrassing) moments on live Arabic TV . . . .

Incapable of rebutting Botros, the only strategy left to the ulema (aside from a rumored $5-million bounty on his head) is to ignore him. When his name is brought up, they dismiss him as a troublemaking liar who is backed by — who else? — international “Jewry.” They could easily refute his points, they insist, but will not deign to do so. That strategy may satisfy some Muslims, but others are demanding straightforward responses from the ulema . . . .

But the ultimate reason for Botros’s success is that — unlike his Western counterparts who criticize Islam from a political standpoint — his primary interest is the salvation of souls. He often begins and concludes his programs by stating that he loves all Muslims as fellow humans and wants to steer them away from falsehood to Truth. To that end, he doesn’t just expose troubling aspects of Islam. Before concluding every program, he quotes pertinent biblical verses and invites all his viewers to come to Christ.
May we therefore draw lessons from the stunning successes of St Francis of Assisi, Pope Benedict XVI and Father Botros. For, the Kingdom of God is forcefully advancing in our day, and forceful men lay hold upon it; men who are willing to risk all for the truth and the right, in love.

So, with fear and trembling: why not now? why not here? why not us?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Matt 24 Watch 50: On the significance of Senator Obama's recent media-hushed, pro-homosexuality, Anti-Bible outburst

A week ago, in answer to a question from a Pastor in his audience at a town-hall meeting held in Ohio on Sunday March 2nd, Senator Obama has evidently said:
"People who are gay and lesbian should be treated with dignity and respect and the state should not discriminate against them . . . I don’t think it [a same-sex union] should be called marriage, but I think that it is a legal right that they should have that is recognized by the state…. If people find that controversial then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount, which I think is, in my mind, for my faith, more central than an obscure passage in Romans."
There are several points of concern in the above, and his campaign website's open letter to the "LGBT community" underscores many of them; for it shows that the above is no off-the cuff, impromptu, ill-considered remark but instead it is a calculated part of his political agenda:
. . . I’m running for President to build an America that lives up to our founding promise of equality for all – a promise that extends to our gay brothers and sisters. It’s wrong to have millions of Americans living as second-class citizens in this nation . . . Equality is a moral imperative. . . . as president, I will place the weight of my administration behind the enactment of the Matthew Shepard Act to outlaw hate crimes and a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act to outlaw workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

As your President, I will use the bully pulpit to urge states to treat same-sex couples with full equality in their family and adoption laws. I personally believe that civil unions represent the best way to secure that equal treatment. But I also believe that the federal government should not stand in the way of states that want to decide on their own how best to pursue equality for gay and lesbian couples — whether that means a domestic partnership, a civil union, or a civil marriage. Unlike Senator Clinton, I support the complete repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) – a position I have held since before arriving in the U.S. Senate. While some say we should repeal only part of the law, I believe we should get rid of that statute altogether. Federal law should not discriminate in any way against gay and lesbian couples, which is precisely what DOMA does . . . I have worked to improve the Uniting American Families Act so we can afford same-sex couples the same rights and obligations as married couples in our immigration system.
The most obvious problem with Sen Obama's position as stated, is that equality of persons made in the image of God, for excellent reason, does not equate to moral equality of the ideas and behaviours of those persons.

For, as Greg Koukl so aptly points out in his essay on knowledge, truth right and wrong, we should indeed tolerate and respect persons, but we must be discerning in our evaluation of ideas and behaviours, as there are ideas and behaviours that are self- and/or socially destructive. That is, wrong, or even evil.

In short, unchecked error is destructive, and indeed, following Kant's logic on the Categorical Imperative, that is one way that we can discern errors of truth and moral behaviour. Namely, error is destructive so if it propagates across a community it would result in chaos.

Thus, we can identify evils by asking what would happen if a society were to allow that propagation to occur? If chaos would result, the behaviour is evil. [Try it with classical behaviours such as lying, cheating, stealing, murder, marital infidelity, etc. on one hand, and truthfulness, integrity, respect, love, kindness, marital fidelity, courage, etc. on the other.]

Further to this, some forms of immoral behaviour are sufficiently destructive that the Judaeo-Christian tradition, for very good reason, has long since seen such behaviours as injustice or crime to be curbed by the Civil Authorities acting as God's servants to do us good:
RO 13:1 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established . . . . 4 For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience .

RO 13:6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor . . . .

RO 13:8 . . . he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." 10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Oops, I "forget"!

This is all from "
an obscure passage in Romans" that can be safely dismissed as we pick and choose what biblical texts we want to use.

So "obscure" a passage that it is the (now too often unacknowledged) theological foundation behind the rise of modern liberty and publicly accountable democratic self-government of and by a free people over the past 500 years since the Protestant Reformation. For, if all civil authorities are God's servants to do us good, then if one turns tyrant, lower magistrates have a duty to act jointly with the people to defend the community from the destructive behaviour of the ruler gone bad.

For instance, as we may directly read in the opening paragraphs of the foundational US Declaration of Independence of 1776:
When . . . it becomes necessary for one people . . . to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, [cf Rom 1:18 - 21, 2:14 - 15], that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security . . . .
In short, we are made in God's image and as image bearers of God, we have rights to be respected under God. Governments, through their mandate to do justice, are in part ordained to protect such rights. So, when rulers sufficiently violate these rights they may forfeit the mandate to rule under God, and lower magistrates may properly act with the people and interpose themselves between the tyrant and those whom he would destroy. (Thank God, the institutionalisation of the free, responsible, watchdog press and the democratic, regular General Election --over the past hundred to two hundred years [and largely due to the success of the American Revolution] -- now allows us to do this peacefully. However, we must not ever forget that, proverbially, eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.)

One would imagine that a Constitutional Lawyer would know such elementary points. But, so far has radical secularism advanced in the United States, that basic, easily demonstrated facts that do not sit easily with the secularist, de-Christianising agenda are often obscured by many tortured twistings of history and historical, legal or -- more to our most direct concern -- Scriptural texts in service to the accelerating de-Christianisation of Western culture.

This brings us to my principal concern, addressing the agenda-serving, sad wrenching of the scriptures in Sen Obama's remarks:
1] "I would refer them to the Sermon on the Mount":

A sermon that in material part reads:
MT 5:17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them . . . 19 Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven . . . . 7:12 . . . in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
In short, Jesus' teachings must NOT be read as casting one part of Scripture against another, but as an integral, unifying part of the whole. Indeed, explicitly, Jesus' remark on doing to others as one would be done by in the context of God's Moral Law is EXPLICITLY a summary of the law, not its replacement. And, as Paul remarks in Rom 13:8 - 10, as already cited, the point of neighbour love is that it does no harm, so it fulfills the law. (Rom 2:14 - 16 amplifies that this principle is written on the hearts of all men by God, which is the reason why the Golden Rule in various forms, can be found written in the tablets of our hearts; from earliest childhood.)

Or, in other words, if a pattern of behaviour is harmful to the individual and/or the community, it is wrong. And, relativistic refusal to discern good from bad behaviours and treat them accordingly is plainly destructive.

Indeed, here is Isaiah on the folly of such relativism:
ISA 5:18 Woe to those who draw sin along with cords of deceit,
and wickedness as with cart ropes . . . .

ISA 5:20 Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter.

ISA 5:21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes
and clever in their own sight.
The wanton destruction of marriage in the name of "fairness" and "equality" is precisely an example of this evil.

2] The destruction of Marriage:

Marriage is protected by the proscription on adultery, which in Jesus' words a few chapters later in the same Gospel of Matthew in which we find the Sermon on the Mount, encompasses thought and behaviour that would wrench apart what God has joined:
MT 19:3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?"

MT 19:4 "Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator `made them male and female,' 5 and said, `For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh' ? 6 So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."

MT 19:7 "Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?"

MT 19:8 Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery."
Observe carefully: in Jesus' teaching, marriage is an integral part of God's creation order, the context for committed union between man and woman in which children are born and are to be raised up to follow in the path of right.

In that context, the divorce-remarriage game is viewed as fundamentally destructive and only allowed -- note Jesus' change of language from "command" to "permitted" -- for the hardness of men's hearts. In other words, divorce was allowed only as the lesser of evils. So, he underscored the principle: "what God has joined together, let man not separate."

3] How is this relevant to "same sex marriage," so-called [or its near-equivalent "civil unions"]?

A closer look at Jesus' words will help:
Q: Just what what did God "join"?

A: " . . . at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh' . . ."
In short, marriage -- reflecting the naturally obvious creation order and purpose of the two sexes -- is between man and woman, not between man and man, or woman and woman. If divorce and remarriage is destructive, how much more so is such a homosexual distortion of the creation order?

But, through the teachings of the Apostle to the nations -- so appointed by the Risen Lord [Ac 9] and so recognised by the other Apostles [Ac 15, 2 Peter 3:15 - 18] -- in his most important, well-known and definitive Epistle, in its very opening arguments, we are not left to speculate:

"an obscure passage in Romans . . ."

Romans 1, pace Senator Obama, is neither little known nor hard to understand.

Indeed, it is foundational to the most structured presentation of the theological substance of the Gospel in the entire Bible:
RO 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes . . . 17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."

RO 1:18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

RO 1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

RO 1:24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. Amen.

RO 1:26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

RO 1:28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
This is plain enough: when men in their rebellion suppress the truth and the right, professing themselves to be wise, they become fools instead, refusing to acknowledge the testimony of nature without and mind and conscience within that we are the Creatures of a loving God and Father. In the old days that led to idols in temples and associated legends. Today, we have images made to look like men, birds, beasts and reptiles in museums, school textbooks and the popular media, and are invited to accept the absurdities of evolutionary materialism, which inter alia undercuts the very foundation-stones of reason and morality:
[evolutionary] materialism [a worldview that often likes to wear the mantle of "science"] . . . argues that the cosmos is the product of chance interactions of matter and energy, within the constraint of the laws of nature. Therefore, all phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of chance.

But human thought, clearly a phenomenon in the universe, must now fit into this picture. Thus, what we subjectively experience as "thoughts" and "conclusions" can only be understood materialistically as unintended by-products of the natural forces which cause and control the electro-chemical events going on in neural networks in our brains. (These forces are viewed as ultimately physical, but are taken to be partly mediated through a complex pattern of genetic inheritance and psycho-social conditioning, within the framework of human culture.)

Therefore, if materialism is true, the "thoughts" we have and the "conclusions" we reach, without residue, are produced and controlled by forces that are irrelevant to purpose, truth, or validity. Of course, the conclusions of such arguments may still happen to be true, by lucky coincidence — but we have no rational grounds for relying on the “reasoning” that has led us to feel that we have “proved” them . . .

Thus, evolutionary materialism reduces reason itself to the status of illusion. But, immediately, that includes “Materialism.” For instance, Marxists commonly deride opponents for their “bourgeois class conditioning” — but what of the effect of their own class origins? Freudians frequently dismiss qualms about their loosening of moral restraints by alluding to the impact of strict potty training on their “up-tight” critics — but doesn’t this cut both ways? And, should we not simply ask a Behaviourist whether s/he is simply another operantly conditioned rat trapped in the cosmic maze?

In the end, materialism is based on self-defeating logic . . . .

In Law, Government, and Public Policy, the same bitter seed has shot up the idea that "Right" and "Wrong" are simply arbitrary social conventions. This has often led to the adoption of hypocritical, inconsistent, futile and self-destructive public policies.

"Truth is dead," so Education has become a power struggle; the victors have the right to propagandise the next generation as they please. Media power games simply extend this cynical manipulation from the school and the campus to the street, the office, the factory, the church and the home.

Further, since family structures and rules of sexual morality are "simply accidents of history," one is free to force society to redefine family values and principles of sexual morality to suit one's preferences.

Finally, life itself is meaningless and valueless, so the weak, sick, defenceless and undesirable — for whatever reason — can simply be slaughtered, whether in the womb, in the hospital, or in the death camp.

In short, ideas sprout roots, shoot up into all aspects of life, and have consequences in the real world . .
If we accept such Creator-rejecting absurdities, whether in the guise of ancient paganism or modern evolutionary materialism, we become benumbed and en-darkened in heart and mind, so that our passions twist out of control, most notably our sexual ones, even twisting out of God's obvious creation order into various perversions.

This is personally and socially destructive -- which is massively documented [homosexuality takes literally decades off one's life expectancy and the associated agendas are plainly destructive to the community] -- and leads to the demand that such destructive behaviours not only be "tolerated" but that they must be APPROVED.
Sadly, with Senator Obama, that is where we have now arrived in American politics. And, if his proposed policy prevails, those who object on Biblical grounds will be targetted for persecution as intolerant bigots who would impose a religious tyranny on the latest legally protected group, homosexuals. (This has already begun to happen in Europe and Canada, so this is not empty speculation.)

Therefore, we must reflect soberly on the Apostle Peter's closing remarks in his last Epistle, written shortly before his martyrdom:
2 Pet 3:15 Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

2PE 3:17 Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever!
Let us beware, then, of such scripture twisting, whether in the ever-tempting guise of political messianism, or in the name of "equality" or "tolerance" or any other persuasive excuse. END

Minor copy editing, and a few additional remarks on the value of general elections and the role of a responsible, free press, March 13. It may also be wise to soberly but critically reflect on Jane Chastain's remarks on the Tony Rezko angle to the emerging Obama story, here.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Matt 24 [and Ez 38] Watch, no 49: Fidel retires as War clouds in the Middle East and in the Caribbean basin

First, an apology: over the past several weeks, this blog has been quiescent as I have had a major Internet connection breakdown, at last identified and fixed yesterday. (Also, I have had a major challenge with a consultancy project so that when I have been able to access the 'net, I have had to give that the priority over this blog.)

The first point of reference is of course the retirement of Mr Castro, and the astonishing associated regional silence on the need for liberation and empowerment of the long-suffering Cuban people. We need to do far better than that, especially as descendants of enslaved and otherwise oppressed people ourselves.

It also seems that Mr Skerritt of Dominica has at length made public statements on his involvement with the ALBA framework. In effect, under local pressure, he denies any military involvement.

It seems that that has happened just in time, for, over the weekend, Columbia seems to have struck across its Ecuadorean border at base of the Marxist [i.e. "Communist"], left-wing anti-government rebel group, FARC, killing Raul Reyes, one of its key leaders. In response, Mr Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has rushed ten battalions to the opposite border [about 6,000 troops], with tanks in support. In so dispatching troops, Mr Chavez reportedly stated: "we don't want war - but we won't let the empire [meaning the US] or its lap dog President [of Columbia] Alvaro Uribe try to make us weaker."

Ecuador, under its president, Rafael Correa, has reportedly placed 3,200 troops on its own border, and there is a wave of diplomatic protests over the cross-border attack. Mr Correa is quoted as saying:
"Ecuadorean territory has been bombarded and insulted intentionally by a foreign government; this situation is extremely grave and intolerable . . ."
According to the just cited [and above-linked] Daily Telegraph report, he rejected an apology by Columbia, expelled its ambassador, broke off diplomatic ties, and said that he "will take stronger measures in the coming hours."

In its own response, Columbia has first stated that "international law allowed such operations in pursuit of terrorists. "

It has also released some of the captured intelligence. So, as the UK's Daily Telegraph reports:

Colombia announced that computer files recovered from the site where Mr Reyes was killed showed that Ecuador's government had been in talks with the rebels and that Mr Chavez had recently sent $300 million to Colombian guerrillas.

"The questions raised by these documents need concrete answers," said the Colombian national police chief, General Oscar Naranjo.

The BBC adds:
Colombia accused Ecuador and Venezuela of having ties with the Farc and said the rebels had tried to buy uranium.

The Colombian authorities said the information had come from documents found during Saturday's raid on the rebel camp in Ecuador.

"When they mention negotiations for 50 kilos of uranium, this means that the Farc are taking big steps in the world of terrorism to become a global aggressor. We're not talking of domestic guerrilla but transnational terrorism," said Colombian national police chief Oscar Naranjo at a news conference in Bogota.

Other documents showed that President Chavez had provided $300m (£151m) to the Farc, and had received funds from them many years earlier, he said.

And there was also evidence of links between the Farc and representatives of the Ecuadorean government, Gen Naranjo claimed.

In another report, BBC goes on to observe:
Mr Uribe has promised the Colombian people he will take a tough stance against the guerrilla movement that for more than 40 years has used kidnapping and murder as a weapon against the state. He believes they can be stopped militarily.

Mr Chavez, on the other hand, has offered his support to the Marxist rebels.

While not endorsing their methods, he has said Farc should be treated as an insurgent force rather than as terrorists, claiming they have a legitimate political goal.

But anecdotal evidence points to more tacit support.

Former rebels who have defected have spoken of receiving co-operation from some in the Venezuelan military.

They have also reported that Venezuela has provided weapons, shelter and financial support.

Venezuela's main opposition leader, Manuel Rosales, has often spoken out about these links.

"The guerrillas go in and out of our national territory, kidnap people and make alliances with criminals, who they train in kidnapping and extortion," he said recently.

In short, some very worrying developments have been taking place, and on the reports in hand, they do not show Mr Chavez in a good light. This should be another warning-light to Caricom's leaders as we engage Mr Chavez in our own region, especially in light of our previous observations here and here.

But the issues do not stop there, as we can see by following the dotted lines to the Middle East in light of evident actions by Venezuela's partner, Iran -- an Iran which was just, 14-0, with Indonesia abstaining -- put under a third round of sanctions over its suspected nuclear weapons programme. [Not irrelevant is the fact that Iran just launched a satellite, i.e it has in effect shown to the world that it is capable of building an Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile, or ICBM. By its claim, developing that satellite launch rocket took just nine months]

In particular, we should observe the reported source of the new, 122 mm Grad rockets that were used to bombard Ashkelon over the weekend from Gaza, which provoked yet another round of Israeli cross-border attacks in response, and which then led to renewal of the bombardment as soon as Israel withdrew its troops:

Long-range rockets fired from the Gaza Strip into Israeli cities the past few days were manufactured in and imported from Iran, according to Israeli security officials speaking to WND.

In a major escalation, Hamas the past few days has been firing long range Grad rockets at the strategic Israeli port city of Ashkelon, home to some 125,000 Israelis about 11 miles from Gaza. Ashkelon houses a major electrical plant that powers most of the Gaza Strip.

Grad rockets are longer-range projectiles similar to the Katyusha rocket, which the Lebanese Hezbollah terror group successfully used in 2006 to barrage northern Israel, killing 42 Israeli civilians and reportedly wounding over 4,000. The Grad travels up to 12 miles and delivers a larger payload than the Qassam rocket, which can travel about four to five miles and is the usual rocket of choice for Palestinians.

At least three Grad rockets landed in Ashkelon today, wounding a woman who had used her body to protect her two children. A least a dozen Grads slammed into Ashkelon since Friday, causing injuries to civilians and massive damage to houses and buildings.
The WND report continues:
At least 140 rockets, mostly Qassams, targeted the Israeli city of Sderot the past four days . . . One man was killed and dozens injured last week. Thousands of rockets have been regularly launched at Sderot since Israel retreated from the Gaza Strip in 2005 . . . .

According to Israeli security officials, the Grad rockets fired at Israel in recent days were made in Iran and were smuggled in parts into the Gaza Strip, where they were assembled. It is thought a large number of rockets were brought into Gaza in January, when Hamas breached the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, the sources said . . . .

In a statement carried widely in the Middle East, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei yesterday called in Muslims and their leaders worldwide to "rise up" against Israel and the United States in response to Israel's anti-rocket operations in Gaza.

"It is with the support of that [the U.S.] oppressive government that the Zionists [Israel] are committing these unforgivable sins with impudence," Khamenei said in the statement.

"The Islamic (people) must rise and the Islamic leaders must hit the occupying regime in the face with their nations' anger," Khamenei's statement said.
First, let us observe that key term, "the occupying regime."

For, Israel is not occupying Gaza, has long since withdrawn from the Sinai and Jordanian lands it took in previous defensive wars. Lands it occupied in Lebanon in response to cross-border attacks, were evacuated as long ago as 2000. Similarly, strictly, the West Bank zone comprises Disputed Territories, and Israel has long since sought to find a reasonable compromise with the Palestinian Arabs. It is the Arabs who rejected 97% of the land inside the Green Armistice line [which is not a border], with land in exchange for the remainder, and went to a terrorism campaign in 2000.

What the term really means is that in the minds of the Iranian Mullahs and other islamists, Israel itself -- the historic and internationally recognised national homeland of the Jewish people -- is viewed as "occupied territory," as the PLO charter declares and as Hamas' charter declares. That is, once lands have once come under the domination of Islam, they are always "occupied" if they ever fall out of Islamist control. All of this, on the way to the sort of global domination implicit in how the Islamists -- with considerable historical basis, see Quranic texts such as Q 9:5 and 29:
5: But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, an seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practise regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. [This is the infamous Sword Verse that takes precedence under the doctrine of Abrogation, over a hundred more irenic passages in the Quran; mostly from the earlier Meccan period. It implies a global agenda of conquest, which led to the -- to the too often unrecognised, unacknowledged, unrepented of -- classical and modern history of Islamic imperialism and supremacism.]

[. . . . ]

29: Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. [This is The Verse of Tribute, which is a cornerstone of dhimmitude, in which non-Muslims under Islamic rule are subjected to harsh, Apartheid-like conditions that deny their basic human rights.]
So, on whatever pretexts are convenient at any given time, the war to subjugate the world continues, and in that war temporary alliances and truces are just stages on the way to the intended subjugation of the whole world -- a subjugation that is envisioned for completion in this Century. Indeed, it is worth the time to observe again the following words from an Iranian Government Website, in a Christmas 2006 message to the world:
Man's effort to procure the facilities needed in his life, is as old as history. In today's world, science and technology have helped human societies to achieve many of the amenities. But mankind has not yet been able to eliminate poverty and remove the unequal distribution of income in the society, because of the unjust world order imposed by the so-called big powers, which by monopolizing science and technology terrorize weaker nations and plunder their wealth and natural resources. The cold and calculating domineering powers impose on the weaker nations, the methods of production, consumption and technology that are to the benefit of capitalists. In the weird system of today’s powerful counties, moral and spiritual values have no place and are seen as undesirable liabilities that prevent these powers from reaching economic welfare and what they call true prosperity. However, the exploitation of the weak, the unjust system of distribution and denial of the rights of nations, will end with the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (AS). In the government of the Imam man will witness real economic welfare throughout the world without any discrimination. The main issue in his global government is carrying out social justice and one of the main products of social justice is a highly developed economy that leads to the blossoming of moral and spiritual values as emphasized by the dynamic teachings of Islam.
Given the history of 1400 years of Islamist supremacism, imperialism, and oppression, these worlds ring hollow, even as they give us a chilling warning of the scope of the global conflictt hat even now is emerging: "the government of the Imam . . . throughout the world . . . global government."

In other words, we face a global agenda of Islamist domination, one backed up by a religious sanction for world conquest. As Lee Harris sums up; by way of reviewing Bostom's recent
The Legacy of Jihad:
In our current climate of political correctness, there has been a reluctance even to acknowledge the most obvious facts about the nature of jihad. Indeed, just as there are Holocaust deniers, there is a contemporary tendency to deny the historical evidence relating to jihad, though, as Bostom’s book amply demonstrates, there is scarcely a lack of such evidence from any number of different sources, from every period, from the original wave of Arabic conquest in the seventh century to today’s headlines . . . .

[F]or those who wish to see Muslims repudiate the classical tradition of jihad, it may be beneficial to encourage the illusion that jihad has always meant an internal struggle against sin or a fight for a just cause and that any other interpretation is contrary to the “real” message of Islam.

Yet for those who are seeking to understand the nature of historical Islam, it is imperative to come to grips with what jihad has actually meant to Muslims throughout their history, and especially during those periods in which Islam expanded its domain, not only by conquering new territory, but also by transforming utterly the cultures of those who fell under its sway . . . .

Islamic jihad, from its commencement, refused to recognize the legitimacy of any status quo other than that achieved in Dar el-Islam, or “the domain of peace.” Other peoples’ delicate balance of power meant nothing. Outside the domain of peace there was only the domain of war, and here no entity could hope to be treated as representing a legitimate order, for no order that was not based on Islamic law could ever be recognized as legitimate in the eyes of Muslims. The only legitimate order was a Muslim order . . . . Muslim jihad followed logically from the principle that all men should live in Muslim societies. Like the French revolutionaries [of 200+ years ago], Muslims wished to liberate humanity, and they were aware that they could do this only by violently overthrowing the status quo and disregarding any claims to legitimacy based on mere custom or tradition.


So, when we see the dots that connect Mr Chavez to Iran, as in the following, we should take serious pause before we simply blindly nod as we hear the rhetoric of American imperialism [for all the sins of the Americans] -- especially now that over the past few days we are able to see a little more of what has been going on between Venezuela and Columbia:

"The two countries [Iran and Venezuela] will united defeat the imperialism of North America," a beaming Chavez told a news conference during an official visit to the Islamic Republic . . . ."When I come to Iran Washington gets upset," he said . . . . "Iran and Venezuela -- the axis of unity," read one of many official posters at the site near the port town of Assalouyeh, showing the two leaders hugging each other and shaking hands . . . .

Chavez, who last week pushed two U.S. oil giants out of his country as part of his self-styled socialist revolution, said: "This is the unity of the Persian Gulf and the Caribbean Sea."
Plainly, Caricom countries need to think about our regional and foreign policy stances in a world facing such a titanic struggle, very, very carefully and soberly indeed.

One for careful thought and serious intercessory prayer. END