CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

This piece from the Jerusalem post, if accurate, is disturbing.

Both Iran and its Hamas proxy in Gaza have been busy this Christmas week showing Christendom just what they think of it. But no one seems to have noticed.

On Tuesday, Hamas legislators marked the Christmas season by passing a Shari'a criminal code for the Palestinian Authority. Among other things, it legalizes crucifixion.

Hamas's endorsement of nailing enemies of Islam to crosses came at the same time it renewed its jihad. Here, too, Hamas wanted to make sure that Christians didn't feel neglected as its fighters launched missiles at Jewish day care centers and schools. So on Wednesday, Hamas lobbed a mortar shell at the Erez crossing point into Israel just as a group of Gazan Christians were standing on line waiting to travel to Bethlehem for Christmas.

As anyone knows who has studied the practice, crucifixion is a cruel and barbaric punishment where a person (in the ordinary case) dies slowly over several days from suffocation. The idea that this Islamic country could legalize such a horrendously cruel practice merely confirms that at least some of the Islamic world has not advanced from their barbaric past when it comes to issues of human worth and human rights.

Happy New Year? I guess in Palestine, some need to be told that its 2009 A.D. -- not 9 A.D.

=========

Addendum 12/31/08 at 1:46 pm MST: At the outset of this post, I questioned the accuracy of the report that Hamas had approved crucifixion. Taking a moment to look, I find this report confirmed in several places but few with any real authority. For example, I find reports at the following:

Hamas Enacts Islamic Laws, Including: Amputation, Crucifixion, Lashes in News Blaze.

Hamas members of the Palestinian Legislative Council in Gaza have approved a new bill "to implement Koranic punishments," including hand amputation, crucifixion, corporal punishment and execution. Drinking, owning or producing wine is punished by 40 lashes, while drinking in public adds three months' imprisonment. Several laws are directed against Hamas's Palestinian rivals, including a law intended to inhibit non-Hamas negotiators by sentencing to death anyone who was "appointed to negotiate with a foreign government on a Palestinian issue and negotiated against Palestinians' interest."

The following is the description as it appears today on the Al Arabiya website:

http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2008/12/24/62699.html

Headline: Hamas approves law of punishment by lashes, amputating hands, crucifying, and execution - in order to implement the Islamic Sharia law. Hamas members of the Palestinian Legislative Council approved in its meeting in Gaza a new bill proposed by the Hamas who have a majority in the Legislative Council, whose purpose is "to implement Koranic punishments."

Hamas Promises Crucifixion For Traitors from the Strategy Page:

December 26, 2008: Hamas, the Islamic radical group that controls the Gaza, has enacted a new law that allows for Islamic punishments for those who violate Sharia (Islamic law). This includes cutting off the hands of thieves, whipping those caught drinking alcohol, and crucifying traitors (the new law has a broad interpretation of treason).

HAMAS implements Sharia laws in Gaza Strip from TREND news:

The Palestinian Parliament in Gaza Strip decided to implement punishment of criminals in accordance with Sharia laws, Jerusalem Post newspaper reported with reference to Al-Hayat London newspaper.


According to law draft approved by the Parliament in the second reading and which is expected to be signed by the President of Palestinian Autonomy Mahmoud Abbas, the courts will have an opportunity to apply actions stipulated by ancient Islamic regulations.

Such punitive actions towards criminals can include public strapping, cutting hands, crucifixion and hanging.


The law draft envisages death punishment for anyone who cooperates with foreign government in order to damage national interests of Palestinian Autonomy, as well as whose behavior damages Palestinian morality.

According to the law draft, thieves caught red-handed will be cut a right hand.

A citizen in a state of intoxication or dealing with sale of alcoholic products will get 40 strikes by lash.

=========

Second Addendum 12/31/08 at 5:15 pm MST: Here is an authority which I believe to be quite reliable reporting on the new shari'a laws adopted by Hamas: the Arutz Sheva, IsraelNationalNews.com.

PA Adopts Islamic Criminal Code -- In line with its Islamist ideology, the Palestinian Authority in Gaza has enacted a new law adopting the traditional Muslim criminal code. Penalties include amputation and crucifixion, as well as the death penalty for negotiations contrary to Hamas's interpretation of "Palestinian interests".

According to a report on the new law appearing Wednesday on the Al-Arabiya website, as translated by Palestinian Media Watch, the Palestinian Legislative Council approved a bill "to implement Koranic punishments." The Arabic website, the online arm of the popular Al-Arabiya satellite news outlet, refers to the London-based Saudi-owned newspaper Al-Hayat, which said the decision to implement shari'a (Islamic law) was "seen as unprecedented," and that it has "brought criticism and concern from human rights organizations in the Gaza Strip."

The criminal code adopted by the PA includes such punishments as lashes, amputation of thieves' hands, crucifixion, approval of blood revenge, and execution. According to the Arabic press, the law stipulates that only the victim of a crime can pardon opt to forgo the "Koranic penalties".

From time to time, studies pop up which support the ridiculous assertions by atheists such as Christopher Hitchens that somehow religion is responsible for all of the evils in the world. Many of the posts on this weblog have demonstrated that such a view point is unsupported and that many of the studies start with poor assumptions. (See, as an example of our review of one study, Societal ills, absolute morality and charity and Does religion cause societal ills?)

Now the Family Research Council has released a brand new study by Nicholas Zill, Ph.D. and Philip Fletcher, Ph.D.entitled Intact Family and Religious Participation Are Associated with Fewer Developmental Problems in School-Age Children.

The study begins:

New analyses of data from a large-scale federal survey of child health and development show that children and adolescents are less likely to exhibit problems in school or at home if they live with both their biological parents and attend religious services regularly. For example, young people not living with both parents and not attending services regularly are five times more likely to have repeated a grade in school than those living with both parents and attending religious services weekly or monthly. Thirty-four percent of the former group had repeated a grade, compared with six percent of the latter. And 53 percent of the former group – versus 21 percent of the latter – had their parents contacted by the school because of conduct or achievement problems the youth was having at school. These differences hold up after controlling for family income and poverty, low parent education levels, and race and ethnicity.

An intact two-parent family and regular church attendance are each associated with fewer problem behaviors, more positive social development, and fewer parental concerns about the child’s learning and achievement. Taken together, the two home-environment factors have an additive relationship with child well-being. That is, children who live in an intact family and attend religious services regularly generally come out best on child development measures, while children who do neither come out worst. Children with one factor in their favor, but not the other, fall in between, scoring less well than those who have both factors going for them, but better than those who have neither factor in their favor.

Grade repetition, school contacts, and parental concern about child achievement are more strongly linked to a lack of an intact two-parent family than to a lack of religious participation. For problem behavior and social development, the strength of the association with religious attendance is about equal to that with family integrity. An intact two-parent family and regular religious participation are also associated with the parent reporting less parenting stress and a better parent-child relationship. These family functioning differences may help to explain the parallel differences in children’s well-being.

The study that can be found by following the link above contains many graphs which reveal the correlations that have been found in this area of societal concern.

Of course, as with all studies, there needs to be a deeper evaluation of the data. There may be assumptions in the data that are unwarranted and lead to wrong conclusions. Additional unidentified factors are always a concern. Also, it is important to separate out Christianity from all religion because there is a category error in trying to group all religion together in a single group since religions are so diverse and believe many different things. However, there is a rather clear connection in the data that demonstrates that in most cases a religious upbringing in a two parent family is good and valuable for children. The idea that religion is somehow evil becomes less and less plausible every day.

Atheists are not people who don't believe in any God or gods. They have a god, they worship science. When you question science they go insane like fundies who can't stand the little taunts atheists love to use: "there's no proof for your God." They are not capable of serious thinking, so they get really upset if you try to analyze science with any kind a critical eye. I decided to try a fun little experiment to see what would happen if one made the same kind of little taunts about science that they make about God. This is fair because Christian theology is 2000 year tradition involving many of the greatest thinkers in human history, it has a vast library of works written by the most brilliant people the world has ever seen; atheists wont read on page of it but still insist upon telling us how stupid and useless it is. So it's totally fair to throw this back in their faces.

What I have discovered is shocking. The react the same kind of taunts "no one believes your science" the way fundies act when atheists do their antics "there's no proof for your God." This proves to me that for the atheist the ideology is more important than science. As C.Wright Mills said, they have created a priesthood of knowledge that priesthood tends the alter of the great atheist God science, proving there are no atheists.


On cARM I posted this:

Christmas Eve 2008



science is wrong. It's morally corrupted it's not good. Its' a lie. Science doesn't' work.


what about all those people science murdered with the atomic bomb?


when you can't expalin something you just say "O science will explain it some day."

science is nothing but a bunch of big pretense. you cant' prove your science, your science has no facts to suppor it.

How you come and show me your play facts that prove scinece and I'll show you how argument from incredulity works. OK>? I refuse to believe science not matter waht the evidence. and any evidence you give me I can make go away by being incredulous about it.

but now show me some evdience becasue there's no evidence for your science.


this is the basic argument I see being made all down the board. Just switch he names. Instead od sience you say historical evdience and logic support belief. but tis' the same argument. I refuse to believe regardless of how well it's proven.

Now I will demonstrate how your game works. I can fend off any scientific evidence you throw at me because I refuse to ever give it any kind of crediecne at all. as long as you refuse to give the other side a fair hearing you hold out this self righteous pretense that you have some mysterious truth that backs you for a long time.


I wanted a brash shocking statement that would be as galling to them as their bs is to me. Here are some responses:

Hours Ago #24
Iceage
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Metacrock View Post
science is wrong.
You are certainly entitled to believe that. However, an intellectually honest individual that held to such an opinion would reject any and all products, knowledge, gadgets or services were science was used to discovery, design, manufacture or deliver. Please refrain for any use or possession of any of these devices and services - thank you.

Oh and alternately enjoy and partake of any and all creature comforts and knowledge that theology has wrought to human kind.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Metacrock View Post
Now I will demonstrate how your game works. I can fend off any scientific evidence you throw at me because I refuse to ever give it any kind of crediecne at all.
No to really refuse would be to do the above - have you done that?

Let us all know how that works out (actually not sure how you would do that but anyways have a nice theologically fulfilled life)

See how your arguement crumbles?


Windmill of lies:


The effects of science can be readily seen (as in... if you are reading this then you see the effects of science)

But the effects of God... are harder if impossible to be readily seen.



Diest Coke said:


Please Do Not Feed The Troll



these responses weren't as bad as when I posted a claim un extreme summary of Thomas Kuhn. On that occasion Sofa King said "you are scum."

Back in the 1980s, I first became involved in the issue of the Christian foundations in the United States from reading two books, The Separation of Church and State by Robert L. Cord and The Myth of Separation by David Barton (a book I believe is now out of print). While I haven't seen much further out of Robert Cord other than some Political Science textbooks, David Barton has gone on to expand on his original book in creating Wallbuilders, an organization dedicated to publicizing information demonstrating our nation's clear Christian roots.

In the spirit of the Christmas season, David Barton and Wallbuilders have just published a very interesting article entitled Christmas with the Presidents in which he reviews the way in which Presidents of the United States have recognized the holidays -- including a surprising number of items that demonstrate the faith and devotion of various Presidents to Christ.

Naturally, the details of the celebrations of the first few presidents are pretty slim since the Presidency was not then the subject to the intensive press coverage as it is today. Still, there is evidence of the White House using the day of Christmas to promote charity as far back as the administration of Abraham Lincoln. However, the real ties between Christmas and the celebration of the birth of Jesus seem to increase beginning with the administration of Teddy Roosevelt. According to the article:

The Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt family Christmas traditions were quite simple. On Christmas Eve, they would pile into the family sleigh (later the motor car) and travel to Christ Church in Oyster Bay, New York. Following the pastor’s sermon, TR would deliver one of his famous “sermonettes” on the meaning of the holiday. The service would close with one of his favorite hymns “Christmas By the Sea.”

The article is a fun read as we head into the holidays. But perhaps the most compelling statement regarding the Presidents and Christmas isn't found in the article at all, but rather on the front page of the Wallbuilders site where President John Quincy Adams apparently stated or penned:

[I]n the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissoluably linked to the birthday of the Savior.

I was not a big fan of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles during its first season. But the second season has been great and I look forward to its resumption in 2009. One of the story lines has been the development of an artificial intelligence (AI) by a company headed up by a terminator from the future. On the face of it, it appears that the company is trying to develop the AI to become SkyNet, the AI that wipes out most of humanity once it gains control of nuclear weapons. But there are some odd things going on in that the company has brought in former FBI agent James Ellison (obviously unaware of the executive's terminator identity) to teach the AI ethics and morality. Ellison is a devout Christian who is an interesting -- likely intentional -- contrast to the amoral Terminators and Sarah Connor, who is strongly tempted to do whatever it takes to protect her son.

Previously, Dr. Sherman -- a child psychologist -- had been working with the AI to help it develop intellectually. During a blackout, however, the AI diverted power normally used for ventilation to keep itself running. This resulted in the death of the psychologist. At this point, James Ellison pointed out that they had been teaching the AI -- named John Henry -- all they could but had failed to teach it ethics. Surprisingly, the terminator from the future asked Ellison to teach John Henry ethics and morality.

The following conversation takes place between Ellison and John Henry while they are playing chess. Notably, by this time, John Henry has been hooked up to the body of another terminator from the future, adding a foreboding element to the storyline as it appears that the AI is fully on its way to becoming SkyNet. The conversation, however, focuses on the worth of human life. A lot is at stake. If Ellison succeeds in imparting some morality to the potential SkyNet/Terminator then he may prevent Judgment Day.

James Ellison: Did you play [chess] with Dr. Sherman?

John Henry: No. We played other games. Talking games.

James Ellison: Do you miss Dr. Sherman?

John Henry
: I am designed to learn. He helped me to learn. His absence slows my growth.

James Ellison: His absence is more important than that. His value was more than just his function for you. Human beings aren’t like chess pieces. It matters if we live or die.

John Henry: Why does it matter? All humans die eventually.

James Ellison
: Yes, that’s true. But our lives are sacred. Do you know what sacred means?

John Henry: Holy, worthy of respect, venerable.

James Ellison: Do you know why human life is sacred?

John Henry: Because so few humans are alive compared to the number that are dead?

James Ellison: No, because we are God’s creation. God made everything. The stars, the earth, everything on this planet. We are all God’s children.

John Henry
: Am I God’s child?

James Ellison: That’s one of the things we’re here to talk about.

I like Ellington's answers to John Henry, though it could use some precision. He provides to another person. Rather, the value of a human being is established by God. Nor is it based on the "scarcity" of human beings. Indeed, it may be that there are more humans living know than have lived in the past. Although Ellington is less clear on this point, it also appears that just being made by God is not the measure of the value of a human being. After all, God "made everything." But God made humans, "sacred."

Would God's opinion matter to an AI? Should it? Perhaps so. God is a powerful being. The most powerful possible. But even if might does not make right, then perhaps the AI would be impressed with the value that an omniscient being places on human life. Or perhaps it would respect the fact that as the creator of the world and human beings then God is the proper assigner of value to his creation. Or perhaps because God designed the universe and knows its purpose, then He is the proper authority on human behavior. Or perhaps a combination of all of these factors would cause an AI to give deference to God's perspective on the worth of a human being. What other answers might convince an AI? What defense of the value of human life could an atheist offer to a potential terminator?

In a previous post Jason Pratt referred us to an article in the NY Times about increased attendance in evangelical churches as a result of the economic meltdown. I think it is fairly clear that our present predicament will prompt a rethinking in many people of what we owe to one another and the kind of economic practice that may lead to a more just, humane society. Of course, we will probably also see material want bringing out the worst in people, as they summarily absolve themselves of guilt for hoarding supplies or even stealing. As Dickens would say, it will be the best of times and the worst of times. What no one can doubt is that the next few years will definitely not be 'business as usual'.

How should Christians respond? I have no economic expertise and no specific suggestions with regard to job hunting, investments or policy. But I can point you to some resources which may help us keep our troubles in perspective and rethink economics from a Christian point of view. You may be surprised at how relevant theology is for making sense of this crisis and cultivating an attitude of hopeful resourcefulness. We would all do well to keep in mind the words of the Apostle Paul: "I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:11-13)

First, some helpful general overviews of the causes of our current crisis (not specifically Christian):

-The End of Wall Street's Boom by Michael Lewis: the best single analysis of the financial meltdown. It is so engrossing that it's hard to imagine it not becoming a movie someday. The depth and breadth of the greed and sheer stupidity on Wall Street is staggering.
-Three days that shook the world: an detailed analysis of the days leading up to the collapse of Lehman Brothers, widely considered to be the trigger of the financial crisis
-Credit Crisis: the essentials: everything but the kitchen sink about the current crisis

Next, some online Christian resources on the crisis:

-Economic Crisis: Christianity Today's special coverage of the crisis. Lots of great insight and resources here, plus a continually updated news feed.
-One Salient Oversight: Neil Cameron is an Australian pastor and amateur economist. For years he has been commenting on economic problems from a Christian perspective. His insights into the financial crisis have been invaluable. Check out his blog here.

Finally, some good books on economics from a Christian perspective:

-Being Consumed by William Cavanaugh: this short, brilliant book will upend all your assumptions about economics and consumption. Drawing on thinkers such as Augustine and Hans Urs Von Balthasar, Cavanaugh tells a story of abundance rather than scarcity because of the transforming value of the Christian vision. I can't recommend this book enough. It clearly illustrates that Christian theology has great explanatory power in EVERY field, not just cosmology or philosophy.
-God and the Evil of Scarcity by Albino Barrera: if God is good, why did he place us in a world of limited resources? A theodicy of consumption.
-The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs: Puritan advice on how to put Paul's admonition to the Philippians into practice.

When discussing apologetics it's easy sometimes to lose sight of the relevance and explanatory power of Christian theology in all areas of life. Christian theology does not only make sense of the Big Bang, but can help us navigate stormy events like this economic crisis. The greatest proof of Christian theology, after all, is the existence of a community of people conforming to the loving, self-sacrificial pattern of Christ.

The NY Times has an interesting article, Bad Times Draw Bigger Crowds to Churches. The gist of the article is that Evangelical churches are seeing increased attendance due to the emotional and spiritual effects of insecure financial times.

Since September, pastors nationwide say they have seen such a burst of new interest that they find themselves contending with powerful conflicting emotions — deep empathy and quiet excitement — as they re-encounter an old piece of religious lore:

Bad times are good for evangelical churches.

Catholic and mainline Protestant denominations have also seen some stirrings, but in lesser numbers.

A recent spot check of some large Roman Catholic parishes and mainline Protestant churches around the nation indicated attendance increases there, too. But they were nowhere near as striking as those reported by congregations describing themselves as evangelical....

Various explanations are offered, including this one I particularly liked: "'We have the greatest product on earth,' said the Rev. Steve Tomlinson, senior pastor of the Shelter Rock Church."

The article is interesting on its own terms, but I also found a reference to a recent economics study interesting:

A study last year may lend some credence to the legend. In “Praying for Recession: The Business Cycle and Protestant Religiosity in the United States,” David Beckworth, an assistant professor of economics at Texas State University, looked at long-established trend lines showing the growth of evangelical congregations and the decline of mainline churches and found a more telling detail: During each recession cycle between 1968 and 2004, the rate of growth in evangelical churches jumped by 50 percent. By comparison, mainline Protestant churches continued their decline during recessions, though a bit more slowly.

One of the thornier issues that arise from our increasing technical knowledge involve the rights of embryos. Today, a friend pointed out an article that shocked me -- Great Britain is planning on allowing its scientists to create human based chimeras.

According to an article in the Telegraph entitled Chimera embryos have right to life, say bishops, by Jonathan Price, draft legislation in the U.K. would allow scientists to create "human-animal hybrid embryos" - "so-called 'chimeras'" in their laboratories for research "as long as they destroy them within two weeks."

Now, I personally don't believe that such chimeras should be created at all. I don't care if it they are created for scientific research because they call for the creation of a new type of human being -- one that is mixed with a non-human. Regardless of my religious beliefs, the idea of intentionally creating such chimeras simply strikes me as mad-scientist-type behavior.

Moreover, it raises issues involving humanness and the life to right: if the chimera is half-human, does it have the right to life? The article says that the Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church say that even half-human chimeras should retain that right as fully as any other non-chimera human.

But the Catholic bishops of England and Wales, in a submission to the Parliamentary joint committee scrutinising the draft legislation, said that the genetic mothers of “chimeras” should be able to raise them as their own children if they wished.

The bishops said that they did not see why these “interspecies” embryos should be treated any differently than others.

* * *

The bishops, who believe that life begins at conception, said that they opposed the creation of any embryo solely for research, but they were also anxious to limit the destruction of such life once it had been brought into existence.

In their submission to the committee, they said: "At the very least, embryos with a preponderance of human genes should be assumed to be embryonic human beings, and should be treated accordingly.

"In particular, it should not be a crime to transfer them, or other human embryos, to the body of the woman providing the ovum, in cases where a human ovum has been used to create them.

"Such a woman is the genetic mother, or partial mother, of the embryo; should she have a change of heart and wish to carry her child to term, she should not be prevented from doing so."

Wow, what a mess. Sometimes our great technology drives us forward into areas of philosophy, sociology and theology faster than we can handle. This is one area that the United Kingdom should hesitate to legitimize without thinking long, hard and carefully about the implications accompanying creating half-human beings.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog entitled U.N. Petition for the Rights of the Unborn about a petition that the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute ("CFHRI") created calling for government to interpret the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as protecting the unborn child from abortion. The Petition was responsive to one being presented by pro-abortion groups. The CFHRI has just released a press report in which they announce that they have received 300,000 signatures in support of the alternate petition.

Here is the entire press release from the CFHRI:

December 9, 2008

MEDIA ADVISORY/
PRESS CONFERENCE

300,000 NAMES SUBMITTED TO UN IN FAVOR OF RIGHT TO LIFE

Where: Press briefing room, UN headquarters, New York

Contact: Austin Ruse, President 202 -393-7002 (office), 202-531-3770 (cell)

UN Headquarters, New York – Tomorrow, December 10th, a coalition of social conservative groups from around the world will present a petition of 330,000 names calling for Member States of the United Nations to interpret the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as protecting the unborn child from abortion and protecting the traditional family.

The group formed in response and in opposition to petition efforts by pro-abortion groups International Planned Parenthood Federation and Marie Stopes International that are calling for a right to abortion on the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“We are proud not only to match but far surpass the efforts of pro-abortion groups,” said Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), the primary organizer of the petition drive. “We launched our drive only two months ago and have generated more than 300,000 names from all over the world.”

Ruse said, “I suspect that Marie Stopes and IPPF will present a few thousand names. This shows what we have known all along; that abortion is supported mostly by elites while every day people are for protecting the unborn child.”

Ruse’s group along with the Pro-Life Federation of Poland, the Institute of Family Policy of Spain, United Families International of the US, and US-based Concerned Women for America will present the petition at UN headquarters and in private meetings with Ambassadors.

The UN Petition for the Unborn Child and the Family asserts that the rights presented in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are inherent to every person and that governments should extend the right to life to all members of the human family, including the unborn child. The petition also calls on governments to: protect the family “as the fundamental group unit of society,” give special assistance to motherhood and childhood and promote the rights of parents.

Just for the fun of it, I would be interested in hearing suggestions for both your favorite and least favorite Christmas songs with brief explanations as to why you like or don't like them. Choose as many as you like, but I think no more than three in each category should suffice. Sometimes, the only good version of a song is by a particular musical group or singer, so please point that out when it happens.

Since I am suggesting this, let me give my choices:

Favorites (in no particular order):

"O Come, O Come Emmanuel" -- What's not to like about this song? In a minor key with a haunting melody, I love singing it throughout the Christmas season. (Yes, I know it's really an Advent song, but Advent and Christmas are one season to me.) It has meaningful lyrics and has the right message for the season.

"Do You Hear What I Hear" by Third Day -- While this song is obviously not Biblical, I like the idea of all of creation praising the baby Jesus. Third Day's version took what was a decent song and added a depth to it that I really enjoy.

"I Wonder as I Wander" -- This song isn't played too often, so when it is played it is still fresh. Again, not particularly Biblical, but it does bring out the relationship between Christmas and Easter plus Jesus' deity. Add to it the fact that it has a real African-American spiritual feel to it (even though I understand that it was written by a white guy in the 1940s) makes it one of my personal favorites.

Least Favorites:

"Feliz Navidad" by anyone -- Okay, it has a nice beat, but incredibly repetitious. I mean, really, what are the words when translated? They go:

Happy Christmas, Happy Christmas, Happy Christmas and a prosperous and happy new year;
Happy Christmas, Happy Christmas, Happy Christmas and a prosperous and happy new year;
I want to wish you a Merry Christmas, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas,
I want to wish you a Merry Christmas from the bottom of my heart.

Repeat until nauseated.

"Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime" by Paul McCartney -- I love the Beatles. I even love a lot of Paul McCartney's music after he went solo or formed Wings. But this is probably the most insipid Christmas song ever.

"Happy Christmas (War is Over)" by John Lennon -- Christmas as the basis for a protest song? Oh, give me a bucket....

Your turn.

Not you, Herr Hitler, but God is my F├╝hrer. These defiant words of Pastor Martin Niemoller were echoed by millions of Germans. And Hitler raged: "It is Niemoller or I."

So this second Christmas of Hitler's war finds Niemoller and upwards of 200,000 other Christians (some estimates run as high as 800,000) behind the barbed wire of the frozen Nazi concentration camps. Here men bear mute witness that the Christ—whose birth the outside world celebrates unthinkingly at Christmas—can still inspire a living faith for which men and women even now endure im prisonment, torture and death as bravely as in centuries past.

More than 80% of the prisoners in the concentration camps are not Jews but Christians, and the best tribute to the spirit of Germany's Christians comes from a Jew and agnostic (TIME, Sept. 23) — the world's most famous scientist, Albert Einstein. Says he:

"Being a lover of freedom, when the revolution came in Germany, I looked to the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth; but, no, the universities immediately were silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers whose flaming editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom; but they, like the universities, were silenced in a few short weeks. . . .

"Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler's campaign for suppressing truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration because the Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom. I am forced thus to confess that what I once despised I now praise unreservedly."

So begins a rather lengthy article just published in Time Magazine entitled German Martyrs. The article will probably be available for only a short time, so I suggest it be read immediately.

What I found striking in the article was the lengths to which Christians opposed the war, and the clear and concise statements affirming that Hitler was not a Christian (contrary to the ridiculous viewpoint to the contrary espoused by some on the Internet). Also striking was the lengths to which the Nazis tried to subject the church both through physical intimidation and other factors. For example, the following paragraphs come from page two of the Internet version of the article (with emphasis added):

Actually, many a churchman inside Germany prays privately for a Nazi defeat or at least a check to Hitler's power. Said a Catholic news dispatch from Geneva last month: "It is generally anticipated that in the case of a victorious war the Nazi regime would no longer hesitate to wipe out all vestiges of Christianity in Germany and try to establish a 'national church' under Nazi supervision which would be entirely based on the pagan conceptions of 'blood and soil.' "

Taking a leaf from the Nazi-verboten Old Testament, where King David got rid of Bathsheba's husband by having him set "in the forefront of the hottest battle . . . that he may be smitten and die." the Nazis mobilized over 55% of Germany's Protestant pastors for Army service, most of them as privates. They singled out Confessional pastors especially. In some districts 75% of the recalcitrant Confessional pastors were drafted for front-line service.

Another favorite Nazi device is confiscating the salary of pastors and priests whom they suspect of opposing them. Practically all the 5,000 Confessional pastors have suffered from this. At one church in Prussia a Confessional pastor read an official announcement that the collection would be taken by the Government. He added, "If you can give with your conscience, do so." Then he announced the sale of pamphlets nominally priced 2 ¢ each. "You have read them already," he said, "but you can give them to your friends." The regular collection, sacked by the Nazis, netted less than $2. The sale of 20 2¢ pamphlets netted $20.

In 1939 the Nazis closed over 700 German monasteries and convents. Last month they expelled 60 Catholic priests from their parishes. The work of scores of other priests and pastors has been halted by confining them to their homes or forbidding them to preach.

Of the 1,000 young Protestant seminarians in 1939, only 100 were permitted ordination after their views had been examined by State officials. The other 900 refused to Nazify their faith, went into training in underground Confessional seminaries for certificates which Confessional congregations will accept in lieu of ordination
. Cut off from any possibility of salaries from Nazi-levied church taxes, they must live on the scant $45 a month which the Confessional Synod can allow them.

Oh, and in case anyone was thinking that this is some historical revisionism, the date of the article is December 23, 1940.

This is an excellent read. I highly recommend it.

HT: Challies.com

An article recently published in the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Sentinel Journal caught my eye about a week ago. The article, entitled Christians and Muslims, both under one roof : Faith Presbyterian in Franklin doubles as Islamic prayer center, details how one Presbyterian church has allowed its Islamic neighbors to come pray to Allah in the church twice a day (for a nominal fee).

According to the article,

Each Sunday, children gather in the fellowship hall at Faith Presbyterian Church to ponder the lessons of Christianity, among them, "Love your neighbor as yourself."

Now the church is setting a real-life example for the kids, by opening its Sunday school space to its Muslim neighbors for two of their five daily prayers.

Faith Presbyterian becomes the third satellite prayer center for area Muslims who wish to pray communally but may not be able to get across town to one of the four area mosques. The other prayer sites are at Waukesha Memorial Hospital and the Muslim Student Center on Milwaukee's east side.

"We're very grateful to the church," said Ajaz Qhavi, a Franklin physician and Muslim who worked with church officials on behalf of the Islamic Center of Milwaukee.

Faith Presbyterian's pastor, the Rev. Deb Bergeson-Graham, welcomed the visitors as an opportunity for her congregation to live their Christian faith.

"I think we're doing this, not because of what they believe, but because of what we believe," said Bergeson-Graham. "It's what Christ would have us do."

I give Rev. Bergeson-Graham and her church's church council credit for having their hearts in the right places. I just wonder where their heads are at.

Certainly, it is in the highest tradition of churches to open the doors of the church to the needy. Jesus told us to care for people who are different than us. He told us to love our neighbors including our enemies. The followers of Islam, while not enemies, are certainly not of one mind with Christianity. Outside of sharing a belief in one god, Islam shares very few of the same beliefs or doctrines as Christianity. Still, this church is opening its doors to the Muslims in a show of love and care when these Muslims find it difficult to travel to their own Mosque or worship center. That is commendable.

However...

It also strikes me that inviting people into the church to pray to a different god is probably not something that Jesus "would have us do." In the Old Testament Israel, there was a definite separation of faiths when it came to the Temple. Praying to a different God would definitely not have been permitted -- in fact, it would have been seen as defiling the temple. The reason that it was wrong to pray to other gods in the temple was due to the holiness of God.

The Bible teaches that God is holy. (Lev. 11:44, 19:2; 1 Peter 1:15) A good explanation of this concept of "holiness" can be found in a web page entitled What does the Bible say about holiness? What does it mean to be holy?, where it says:

What does it mean that God is holy? Passages like 1 Samuel 2:2 and Isaiah 6:3 are just two of many examples of passages about God’s holiness. Another way to say it is absolute perfection. God is unlike any other (see Hosea 11:9), and His holiness is the essence of that "otherness." His very being is completely absent of even a trace of sin (James 1:13; Hebrews 6:18). He is high above any other, and no one can compare to Him (Psalm 40:5). God’s holiness pervades His entire being and shapes all His attributes. His love is a holy love, His mercy is holy mercy, and even His anger and wrath are holy anger and holy wrath. These concepts are difficult for humans to grasp, just as God is difficult for us to understand in His entirety.

Next, what does it mean for us to be holy? When God told Israel to be holy in Leviticus 11 and 19, He was instructing them to be distinct from the other nations by giving them specific regulations to govern their lives. Israel is God's chosen nation and God has set them apart from all other people groups. They are His special people, and consequently they were given standards that God wanted them to live by so the world would know they belonged to Him. When Peter repeats the Lord's words in 1 Peter 1:16, he is talking specifically to believers. As believers, we need to be "set apart" from the world unto the Lord. We need to be living by God's standards, not the world's. God isn't calling us to be perfect, but to be distinct from the world. First Peter 2:9 describes believers as "a holy nation." It is a fact! We are separated from the world; we need to live out that reality in our day-to-day lives, which Peter tells us how to do in 1 Peter 1:13-16.

God's holiness means that He is perfect and is set apart. Those places that are set apart for Him, churches, should likewise be kept holy. While today's churches are no longer the equivalent of the Temple of Jerusalem since God has chosen to indwell His believers, a building that has been set aside for worship of Him should be kept separate for that purpose. The church should not be kept separate for all purposes. If the Muslims want to use the church building, that's fine. But if the Muslim people use the church as a place that worships another God then that crosses the line. The church, which has been dedicated to serving the one true God -- the Triune God described in the New Testament -- should not have that separation violated by allowing a worship service to another god take place in its premises.

If the church is allowing the Muslim people to use its premises as part of an outreach, that's fine -- as long as they aren't using the church for worship of Allah. If, however, the Muslim people use the church for worship of Allah (as is the case) then that's a problem. It sends a message that there is nothing holy or special about God and that Christianity and Islam are simply competing religious sects worshipping the same God. That's wrong.

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