Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Waves of Love and Mercy Must Now Follow

Psalm 4:1 (King James Version)

Psalm 4

1 “Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.”

The pictures of the devastation are almost beyond comprehension. The losses seem overwhelming. Hurricane Katrina has cut a swath of destruction through the Gulf of Mexico, from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle.

As I watched the news footage coming from the scenes of destruction I felt overwhelmed. But then I saw scenes of one Coast Guard helicopter crew plucking families, one by one, from the rooftops of homes that were almost totally inundated with water. To me it was a symbol of how we must now, one by one, do our part to come to the aid of the victims of this disaster. That’s how we will all overcome. We who were spared Katrina’s wrath must now give, dollar by dollar. We must pray, and we must also be God’s hands and feet. That’s the task ahead for all of us now.

This is not the time for despair. The rebuilding will take place. It will happen street by street, home by home, brick by brick, person by person as we do our part, one by one, to bring healing. What might seem so little to each of us who responds will, if we allow it, become a torrent of love, grace, and mercy, that will sweep over the Gulf to heal the ravages brought on by this terrible storm.

I urge that anyone reading my blog contact the American Red Cross to do their part. You can either give to the relief effort on line by linking to this website, then click on the “Donate Now” icon or you can call the Red Cross at 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669).
I also urge that those of you who are part of a faith community urge your leaders to contribute to the relief effort. In the same way we must contribute person by person, we must also do our part church by church, synagogue by synagogue, mosque by mosque, temple by temple, community by community.
Let's all of us, one by one, do our part!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Foundation of Heroism

Amos 5:14-15 (New Living Translation)

14 “Do what is good and run from evil--that you may live! Then the LORD God Almighty will truly be your helper, just as you have claimed he is. 15Hate evil and love what is good; remodel your courts into true halls of justice. Perhaps even yet the LORD God Almighty will have mercy on his people who remain.”

One of the most incredible records of courage from the Vietnam War came on October 22, 1965. PFC Milton Olive, age 19, was on patrol near Phu Cuong. He and some other soldiers from his platoon were pursuing Viet Cong guerillas through some thick brush. In the course of the pursuit one of the enemy turned and threw a hand grenade into the midst of the platoon. What happened next is described in the following manner:

“Olive dashed forward and grabbed the grenade. Yelling “I've got it,” he tucked it into his middle and moved away from the others, falling on the grenade and absorbing the full blast.”

“It was the most incredible display of selfless bravery I ever witnessed,” the platoon commander later told a journalist.”

Milton Olive was, posthumously, awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, citing his incredible courage:

“Through his bravery, unhesitating actions, and complete disregard for his safety, he prevented additional loss of life or injury to the members of his platoon. Pfc. Olive's extraordinary heroism, at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.”

A few years after Olive’s death I was stationed in Panama. The war in Vietnam was becoming an every day topic. In the course of one of those daily discussions I mentioned his courageous act. The response I got surprised me, although in retrospect I don’t think it should have. “It was just an instinctive act, nothing more,” another GI said. He was nothing more than a dupe and a fool who acted in keeping with his stupidity.” On hearing that I asked, “What should he have done?” The response was moral relativism at its best. “The damned fool should have run. He owed none of the other men anything.”

I was going to ask another question, but saw that it would be pointless. The, respondents, unlike Milton Olive, felt no sense of obligation or duty to anyone but themselves.

C.S. Lewis, the apostle to the skeptics, addressed this mindset beautifully in “The Case for Christianity.” This is what he had to say about Moral Law and competing instincts:

“Another way of seeing that the Moral law is not simply one of our instincts is this. If two instincts are in conflict, and there is nothing in a creature’s mind except those two instincts, obviously the stronger of the two must win. But at those moments when we are most conscious of the Moral law, it usually seems to be telling us to side with the weaker of the two impulses. You probably want to be safe much more than you want to help a man who is drowning: but the Moral Law tells you to help him all the same. And doesn’t it often tell us to try to make the right impulse stronger than it naturally is? I mean, we often feel it is our duty to stimulate the herd instinct, by waking up our imaginations and arousing our pity and so on, so as to get up enough steam for doing the right thing. But surely we are not acting from instinct when we set about making an instinct stronger than it is? The thing that says to you, “Your herd instinct is asleep. Wake it up,” can’t itself be the herd instinct. The thing that tells you which note on the piano needs to be played louder can’t itself be that note!”

“Here is a third way of looking at it. If the Moral Law was one of our instincts, we ought to be able to point to some one impulse inside us which was always what we call “good,” always in agreement with the rule of right behaviour. But you can’t. There is none of our impulses which the Moral Law won’t sometimes tell us to suppress, and none which it won’t sometimes tell us to encourage. It is a mistake to think that some of our impulses – say mother love or patriotism – are good, and others, like sex or the fighting instinct, are bad. All we mean is that the occasions on which the fighting instinct or the sexual desire need to be restrained are rather more frequent than those for restraining mother love or patriotism. But there are situations in which it is the duty of a married man to encourage his sexual impulse and of a soldier to encourage the fighting instinct. There are also occasions on which a mother’s love for her own children or a man’s love for his country have to be suppressed or they’ll lead to unfairness towards other people’s children or countries. Strictly speaking, there aren’t such things as good and bad impulses. Think once again of a piano. It hasn’t got two kinds of notes on it, the “right” ones and the “wrong” ones. Every single note is right at one time and wrong at another. The Moral Law isn’t any one instinct or any set of instincts: it is something which makes a kind of tune (the tune we call goodness or right conduct) by directing the instincts.”

Casey Sheehan directed his instincts in accord with the Moral Law when he gave his life in the service of freedom on April 4, 2004. Cindy Sheehan, his grieving mother, has, I believe, is directing her instincts in accord with an agenda that serves no cause other than tyranny.

Some food for thought this Sunday morning.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Offensive Enough?

I’ve received a few comments lately expressing offense at the idea that I would compare Nazi propaganda with some of the rhetoric coming from the anti-war movement these days.

I stand by what I wrote!

Further, I am proud to support our work in Iraq and the wider war on terror.

For those who don’t know me, or for those who think they do, let me say categorically that I am not a George Bush apologist. I am a Democrat and I have the votes to prove it. I voted for Lyndon Johnson in 1964, Hubert Humphrey in 1968, George McGovern in 1972, Jimmy Carter in 1976 (I actually worked on the campaign), Ronald Reagan in 1980, Walter Mondale in 1984, Michael Dukakis in 1988, Bill Clinton in 1992, a write-in candidate in 1996, George Bush in 2000, and George Bush in 2004.

I would have supported a Democratic ticket against George Bush in the last two elections if there was a candidate I believed in. Neither Al Gore nor John Kerry were candidates I could believe in. I would have gladly voted for Joe Lieberman if he had been the presidential candidate. But, he wasn’t, so I voted based on my convictions.

I understand the rhetoric is supercharged right now. But I can honestly say that it is not politics, but principle that guides my thinking. You may not agree with those principles, but try as you will, they can not be marginalized, nor will I abandon them.

I also understand that much of what is motivating the current “debate” is politics. It was the same way in the nineties when Bill Clinton committed American troops to end the slaughter in the Balkans. Democrats, my Democrats, supported the effort and Republicans by and large opposed it. So much for principle! I believed that we should have intervened in Rwanda and believe that we as a nation committed a grave sin by not doing so. The blood of hundreds of thousands of Rwandans is as much on our hands as anyone else’s. We had the power and the obligation to do something, but we shrank from our responsibility.

Do you want to know what I find offensive? I find it offensive to hear people say that while Saddam was a tyrant we had no right to intervene. I find it offensive when people call terrorists, who murder innocent men, women, children to advance a world-wide ideology propped up by hatred, freedom fighters. I find it offensive when people who live in world of freedom and the free exchange of ideas would deny those rights to others because of their hatred for one man. I find it offensive when people say that by speaking as I do I’m infringing on someone else’s right to free speech. I have put my life on the line (Vietnam 1965-1966) to ensure that they had that right, and to be honest with you I don’t believe, that if push came to shove, they’d be willing to lay their lives on the line to support my freedom. The obligation and the duty resides with me. I must, by principle, be prepared to lay my life down, and they can, by national identity, demand it of me. But I honestly do not believe that they feel that same sense of obligation or duty to me. I find that offensive.

At the introduction to this piece there is a pamphlet handed out to all who attended a meeting recently held at San Francisco State University. One of the speakers at that event was Cindy Sheehan. I find it offensive that a mother who has lost a son in this conflict would align herself with such evil. I understand grief, but what she had to say at that meeting had little to do with grief. It had to do with hatred. The old adage says that a person is known by the company he or she keeps. I find that offensive!

I rest my case.

I cannot say for sure how this cosmic conflict will end. But I can say that I know which side I am on. Christopher Hitchens said what I feel more eloquently than I ever could:

“Coexistence with aggressive regimes or expansionist, theocratic, and totalitarian ideologies is not in fact possible. One should welcome this conclusion for the additional reason that such coexistence is not desirable, either. If the great effort to remake Iraq as a demilitarized federal and secular democracy should fail or be defeated, I shall lose sleep for the rest of my life in reproaching myself for doing too little. But at least I shall have the comfort of not having offered, so far as I can recall, any word or deed that contributed to a defeat.”

I am proud to sit on the moral high ground in this conflict. I will not yield it. If that offends you, then all I can say is that you be offended.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Peritonitis is Contagious

“I wondered if Hitler would have been invited to the dinner, if he would have been alive, or Stalin, or Mao, or Pol Pot; and wondered whether even they would have been treated, in the spirit of the evening, to those gazes of pleased wonder and fascination and privilege (“I can’t believe that’s…”) that people bestow when they see celebrity, even evil celebrity. I am sorry to say that I think they would. (A cartoon in the New Yorker got this perfectly: At a New York cocktail party a woman, dazzled and pleased, stands talking to a very tall, thin, bearded man wearing a turban, the woman exclaims” “Not the Osama bin Laden?!”)”

- Lance Morrow describing “Club Med for Monsters” in his “Evil – An Investigation” (page 189)

There must be something wonderful in the Maine air. It seems to clear the senses for a soul, much like the air here in the Kansas Flint Hills clears mine.

About two weeks ago I came across a blogger from Maine named Scot Cunningham. As soon as I read some of his essays it was instant admiration. He has the qualities writers admire in other writers. He has a gentle hand, a quiet spirit, and a clear head. The more I read his work the more I’m reminded of another down-easter named E.B White, whose “One Man’s Meat” is one of my earthly treasures.

It was rainy this morning in Emporia, as it has been for over two weeks now, making it a good time to read. At about ten o’clock I came across these wonderful words that Scot penned a few days ago:

“There’s a distinct difference between taking a walk and taking a stroll. A walk is more of a point a to point b affair, whereas a stroll is more lackadaisical. The objective of a stroll is its leisure; a walk, its intention. On a walk the urgency is to get there now. On a stroll, however, there isn’t any urgency, for time and destination is of no consequence. Wherever we get to is where we are, and where we are is where we have arrived. It’s as simple as that. On a walk you’re more in your head than out. In your head you churn out thoughts about not having enough money from paycheck to paycheck, thoughts about never being to get ahead in life, the ever-nagging uncertainty of your life’s purpose or work. But on a stroll you’re blissfully out of your head and into your surroundings. When I stroll on down to the center of Belfast, I marvel how the ash trees—sixty to eighty feet tall—line and shade High Street with its cascading branches. I become pleasantly aware of the sonorous cry of the gull, the cackling of the crows, the cadences of the insects, sounds that affirm a late summer day.”

The paragraph wonderfully expressed what I wish I could feel right now. My strolls have turned into walks. The urgency of my times seems so often these days to be choking out the eye for beauty and the golden silence of Flint Hills mornings. I try as I make my way along Emporia’s streets to listen to the coo of the doves, but the sounds of the times have even drowned out these gentle messengers.

As I read, and re-read, Scot’s essay I was reminded one of the essays in E.B.White’s “One Man’s Meat, written in September, 1938. The essay was titled “Security.” The world was a very dangerous place then and White was trying his best to maintain a sense of normalcy in the face of the evil that was descending. But he couldn’t escape it. The reality of the greater world was invading the quiet place he had carved out for himself in Maine. On the day the essay was written he was working on this barn when the worlds collided. This is what he later said of that time:

“In some respects, though, a barn is the best place anybody could pick for sitting out a dance with a prime minister and a demigod. There is a certain clarity on a high roof, a singleness of design in the orderly work of laying shingles: snapping the chalk line, laying the butts to the line, picking the proper width shingle to give an adequate lap. One’s perspective, at that altitude, is unusually good. Who has the longer view of things, anyway, a prime minister in a closet or a man on a barn roof?”

“I’m down now; the barn is tight, and the peace is preserved. It is the ugliest peace the earth has ever received for a Christmas present. Old England eating swastika for breakfast instead of kipper is a sight I had as lief not lived to see. And though I’m no warrior, I would gladly fight for the things Nazism seeks to destroy. (Living in a sanitary age, we are getting so we place too high a value on human life – which rightfully must always come second to human ideas.)”

“The sacrifice Mr. Chamberlain made to preserve the Ideal of Peace reminded me of the strange case of Ada Leonard, a strip artist of superb proportion. Miss Leonard, if you remember, took sick of a ruptured appendix; but rather than have it out she risked her life in order to preserve, in unbroken liveliness, the smooth white groin the men of Chicago loved so well. Her suffering was great, and her courage admirable. But there comes a point beyond which you can’t push Beauty, on account of the line it leaves in the face. The peace we have with us today is as precarious and unsatisfactory as the form of a strip artist with peritonitis.”

The civilized world of E. B White’s time, it seemed had rescued the peace. Neville Chamberlain had secured “peace in our time.” Tragically, the peace lasted only about a year. White, prophetically, had seen farther into the distance from his barn roof in Maine than Chamberlain had been able to see from 10 Downing Street. England, and the world, had indeed eaten swastika.

My world is not unlike White’s. The blade has been cast into the heat. Terror and despotism are to be making a comeback. The days seem dark. The war doesn’t appear to be going well. In the face of all this voices crying out for “peace,” rising like soldiers in ranks, calling for “reason.” Up has become down and good has become evil. Right has become wrong. Terror has become “resistance.” Despots have been transformed into saints.

The voices of “reason” were around back in White’s day too. Today’s “America is the great Satan” sounded like this in the 1942:

“No European could exchange places with an American. America is a pitiable country and the Americans are a betrayed people, betrayed by their leaders, betrayed and deceived in a simply indescribable way by their self chosen leader Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He spoke of helping the common man, but filled his election campaign fund with donations from uncaring capitalists. He began by wanting to loose the capitalist chains, but became as much a tool of Morgan as any of his predecessors.”

- From “A Land Without a Heart” (a 1942 Nazi propaganda book on the United States)

Today’s “George Bush is the world’s worst terrorist” sounded like this in 1939:

“With rare honesty, the English Prime Minister Chamberlain revealed his true goals to the world on 12 October. Even neutral observers were surprised at how brutally he rejected the Führer's peace offer and declared a war of destruction on Germany, though the warmonger Churchill and his comrades were undoubtedly pleased. He naturally had to turn the facts upside down. It is the height of hypocrisy that he claimed England's goal was to maintain peace, despite the war cries and the incitements that he directed against the Reich.”

- From Nazi talking points on Great Britain (1939)

Today’s “We have no Constitution. We’re the only country with no checks and balances.” sounded like this back in 1939:

“The Third Reich has been the target of its mockery, hatred, lies and slander since 30 January 1933, especially from that part controlled by the Jews. The American press takes particular pleasure in criticizing Germany on grounds of humanitarianism, civilization, human rights and culture. It has every right to do so. Its humanity is shown by lynchings. Its civilization is shown in economic and political scandals that stink to high heaven. Its human rights are displayed by eleven or twelve million unemployed, who apparently chose to be so. And its culture exists only because it is always borrowing from the older European nations. Such a nation is certainly justified in sneering at ancient Europe, whose nations and peoples looked back on centuries, even millennia of cultural achievements even before America was discovered.”

- From Joseph Goebbels’ “What Does America Want?” (1939)

Today’s “George Bush is a liar” sounded like this back in 1941:

“We have nothing to add to that. England will one day pay a heavy price for this man. When the great catastrophe breaks over the island kingdom, the British people will have him to thank. He has long been the spokesman for the plutocratic caste that wanted war to destroy Germany. He distinguishes himself from the men behind the scenes only through his obvious cynicism and his unscrupulous contempt for humankind. He wants war for war's sake. War is an end in itself to him. He wished it, pushed for it, and prepared for it out of a stupid, destructive drive. He is one of those characters of the political underworld who rise through chaos, who announce chaos, who cause chaos. For countless people the war brings vast suffering, for countless children hunger and disease, for countless mothers and women streams of tears. For him, it is no more than a big horse race that he wants to take part in.”

- From Joseph Goebbels’ “Churchill” (1941)

Today’s “Israel is a terrorist state” sounded like the following passage from Joseph Goebbels in 1941:

“Every Jew is our enemy in this historic struggle, regardless of whether he vegetates in a Polish ghetto or carries on his parasitic existence in Berlin or Hamburg or blows the trumpets of war in New York or Washington. All Jews by virtue of their birth and their race are part of an international conspiracy against National Socialist Germany. They want its defeat and annihilation, and do all in their power to bring it about. That they can do nothing inside the Reich is hardly a sign of their loyalty, but rather of the appropriate measures we took against them.”

- From Joseph Goebbels’ “The Jews are Guilty” (1941)

Today's “The Great Satan will be crushed” sounded like this in December of 1941:

“It is astonishing, hardly believable, how the state of the world can change entirely within a short time. Modern war speaks its own language, and ideas and principles that twenty years ago were standard military theory and practice are now entirely outdated and antiquated. If one compares the world situation of Sunday, 7 December, the day when Japan gave President Roosevelt the appropriate answer to his impudent provocations and shameless affronts, with today, one will without doubt conclude that the position of the Axis powers has improved in a way that even a few days before military and political experts would have thought highly improbable.”

- From Joseph Goebbels’ “A Different World” (December 1941)

Today’s “Saddam was no threat to us” sounded like this in 1940:

“On 3 September last year, two hours after English plutocracy declared war on the German Reich, the British Prime Minister Chamberlain gave a radio speech to the German people in the most broken German. One might call it the first English act of war, and it proved to be the first, worst, and most fateful psychological error that the British plutocracy could make. Chamberlain did not betray who had given him the right to speak to the German nation. He was of the opinion that the German people he was attempting to speak to was in about the same intellectual and spiritual condition as it was after the capitulation of 9 November 1918, when it gave itself up to the arbitrary lust for revenge of the Western powers. The point of the speech was that England had no intention of waging war against the German people, but rather intended to help them. Germany needed only to accept the simple British proposal to get rid of the Führer or so-called Hitlerism, and the result would be a quick and easy peace. We can remark in passing that during the seven months of the war, British plutocracy had long since stopped telling the world such hypocritical platitudes. Its best and most eloquent publicists have long since made it clear that the goal of British plutocracy is to destroy the German people and the German Reich. They wish to return it to its state after the Peace of Westphalia in the year 1648.”

- From Joseph Goebbels’ “Speech Honoring Adolph Hitler’s Birthday” (1940)

Over three generations have passed since Hitler’s henchmen and apologists argued his case before the world. The times haven’t changed much. The faces have different and the rhetoric has been updated to suit twenty-first century man, but the message is still clear. Peritonitis, it seems, is contagious.

The day has given way to evening here in the Flint Hills. It would be a lovely night for a stroll. The rain has stopped and the sun is slowly descending in the west. Yet I can’t bring myself to do it. The stroll would be pre-empted by the cares of my times. Perhaps tomorrow the shroud over my heart will lift. Perhaps tomorrow, or the day after, up will once again be up, good will once again be good, and evil will once again be evil. But right now the sights I see and the sounds I hear in the distance have made the beauty of a stroll more a hope than a reality.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


“Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind”

- Albert Einstein

About three weeks ago George Bush made a statement about the Darwinism/Intelligent Design controversy. This is what the President said:

“Both sides ought to be properly taught . . . so people can understand what the debate is about,” he said, according to an official transcript of the session. Bush added: “Part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought. . . . You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes.”

Judging by some of the responses to his remarks, you’d have thought that the world was coming to an end. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, for example, weighed in with this:

“Bush's comments were “irresponsible,” said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. He said the president, by suggesting that students hear two viewpoints, “doesn't understand that one is a religious viewpoint and one is a scientific viewpoint.” Lynn said Bush showed a “low level of understanding of science,” adding that he worries that Bush's comments could be followed by a directive to the Justice Department to support legal efforts to change curricula.”

Here in Kansas we’re no strangers to the controversy. We’re right in the middle of it. We’ve learned that the moment you question Darwinism you can count on responses like Barry Lynn’s and more. “Reputable” scientists describe us as knuckle dragging Neanderthals who are dangers to humanity. Humanists paint us as wild-eyed fanatics bent on the destruction of science, people who are trying to prop up our weak religious beliefs on the back of noble science.

What I find interesting is that a few years ago a notable politician made the same observation as the President did a few weeks ago and the ones many of us Kansans have been making for some time. On June 13, 2001 the U.S. Senate passed a sense of the senate resolution that read:

“Good science should prepare students to distinguish the data or testable theories of science from philosophical or religious claims that are made in the name of science; and (2) where biological evolution is taught, the curriculum should help students understand why this subject generates so much controversy and should prepare students to be informed participants in public discussions regarding the subject.”

One of the champions of the resolution, a man that Barry Lynn and Darwinists would consider to be a role model of their ideology, was none other than Edward Kennedy. In his support of the amendment, the senior senator from Massachusetts sounded down right heretical:

“Senator Kennedy enthusiastically agreed with Senator Santorum, urging all senators to vote for the amendment because “we want children to be able to talk about different concepts and do it intelligently with the best information that is before them.”

What I find even more interesting is that Mssr. Lynn et all never said a word about Senator Kennedy’s support. Apparently he’s the one ray of sunshine in an otherwise crowded universe of no-nothings.

What is it that has made us doubters such an anathema? It’s this. We want the two sides to debate. It’s as simple as that.

Recently, two scholars of note, John Angus Campbell and Stephen Meyer, wrote an op-ed for USA Today. Campbell and Meyer, who hold differing views on Intelligent Design, both agreed that the debate needs to place and that Darwinism, like any theory, should be subject to questioning and debate:

“The two of us disagree about the status of Darwin's theory. Even so, we think there is a way to teach evolution that advances science education, fosters civil discourse and also respects public opinion. We encourage teachers to present the case for Darwin's theory of evolution as Darwin himself did: as a credible, but contestable, argument. Rather than teaching evolution as an incontrovertible “truth,” teachers should present the arguments for modern neo-Darwinism and encourage students to evaluate these arguments critically. In short, students should learn the scientific arguments for, and against, contemporary evolutionary theory.”

It would be very easy to throw these two under the bus, but their opponents would also have to make it a mass movement:

“Recently, 400 Ph.D.-level scientists, including a distinguished embryologist and member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, signed a statement questioning the creative power of the natural selection/mutation mechanism.”

“In May, 15 such doubting scientists from universities such as Cornell, Wisconsin, Georgia and Italy's Perugia came to encourage the Kansas board to let students learn about the evidence challenging (as well as supporting) evolutionary theory.”

“Some scientists also doubt the Darwinian idea that living things merely “appear” designed. Instead, they think living systems display indicators of actual or “intelligent” design. Prominent scientists such as biochemist
Michael Behe and biophysicist Dean Kenyon have cited intriguing evidence to support this theory, such as the presence of digital code, complex circuits and miniature motors in living cells.”

“Additionally, mathematician
William Dembski has developed a statistical method for identifying tell-tale signs of intelligence. Dembski's method of design detection confirms our common sense intuition that digital information — including that found encoded within the DNA inside the cell — points to an intelligent source.”

Opponents of Intelligent Design have been using the same trump card over and over. Like cave men, they club the public incessantly with the notion that, while Intelligent Design proponents are packaging their theory in new wineskins, it’s nothing more than a shell game to introduce the dreaded “G” word into the debate. Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, put her objections this way:

“Like creation science, ID was presented as a scientific “alternative” to evolution, though its scientific content was intentionally vague. Its proponents claimed to have a method to identify natural phenomena that are, supposedly, incapable of being explained by evolution. ID advocates contend that "irreducibly complex" structures such as the bacterial flagellum can only be explained by appealing to the action of an intelligent agent.”

“To secure a wide base of creationist supporters, ID advocates are coy about when and how such actions occurred. Because creation science, which insists on a 6,000-year-old Earth, is still the dominant form of anti-evolutionism, ID can't afford to take a stand to the contrary. Nonetheless, the mainstream of the ID movement is sympathetic to what theologians call progressive creationism, where God creates in fits and starts over time, rather than in six days. It's still creationism, and so is ID.”

There you have it. Intelligent Design proponents are nothing more than regurgitated “young-earth” creationists. While she doesn’t directly say that ID proponents are dangerous, she cleverly found a way to defend Darwinism by marginalizing ID proponents.

Now I’m not a scientist or a science junkie, but I do have some of the same questions that a growing number of ID proponents have. There are two in particular that intrigue me. First, how can Darwinists and neo-Darwinists continue to claim that their interest is the purity of science and the good of our children?

Really? I thought science was all about testable hypotheses. Yet I hear a lot of information coming from evolutionists who, upon observing that the universe “seems to” have some intelligent design or purpose behind it, invent new theories to explain that in the infinite number of universes out there that the one we inhabit came into being by “chance.”

It sounds as much like metaphysics to me as it does to science, doesn’t it? It certainly looks like there isn’t a shred of hypothesis in the idea. What it appears for all the world to me is like the old theory that if you had an infinite number of monkeys and an infinite number of typewriters and an infinite amount of time and an infinite number of universes that sooner or later one of the monkeys would write King Lear.

But there’s an even more important question I’d like to get an answer to. What in the hell are the Darwinists so afraid of? I thought science was all about inquiry and rigorous scrutiny. I even think Darwin himself believed that. Could it be that “Their logic seems to have been that the many persons with impressive scientific credentials who have expressed skepticism toward the theory of evolution must not really be scientists, since they have expressed skepticism toward the theory of evolution. More important, the Darwinists educators cannot afford to acknowledge to either their students or the public that there is a distinction between the testable theories of science, on the one hand, and philosophical or religious claims that are made in the name of science on the other. All Darwinist propaganda depends on blurring that distinction so that a credulous public is taught to accept philosophical naturalism/materialism as inherent in the definition of “science.” On that premise scientific knowledge is deemed the least implausible naturalistic mechanism for creating complex life and therefore true. Sometimes Darwinists say that their naturalism is merely methodological and makes no claims about reality, but of course the method is thought to be sound because it is deemed to reflect reality.”

The reasoning is about as circular as circular can get. The Darwinists “make no claims” about reality. But the minute someone challenges them they retreat into their nihilistic webs and cry “foul.” “No religion allowed in the debate.”

School has started here in Kansas and to the best of my knowledge the universe hasn’t imploded on us. Kansas students are learning. At the same time, Darwinists are avoiding the debate, hoping that the ID proponents will go away. While they hope, they're also banging feverishly away on their typewriters, praying that in their infinite universe with an infinite number of universes as neighbors, one of them may wind up being science’s immortal bard.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

When He Returns

Matthew 24:23-28 (New Living Translation)

23“Then if anyone tells you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah,’ or ‘There he is,’ don't pay any attention. 24For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform great miraculous signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God's chosen ones. 25See, I have warned you.
26 “So if someone tells you, ‘Look, the Messiah is out in the desert,’ don't bother to go and look. Or, ‘Look, he is hiding here,’ don't believe it! 27For as the lightning lights up the entire sky, so it will be when the Son of Man comes. 28Just as the gathering of vultures shows there is a carcass nearby, so these signs indicate that the end is near.”

Nancy and I spent Sunday afternoon and Monday in Kansas City visiting with her mother. On Sunday night her brother and his wife came over and, as almost always happens in the Catron house, the discussions turned to politics and religion. The discussion began when Nancy’s brother John and I started talking about blogging. John, who’s known on the blogosphere as “Webloafer,” complimented me on some of my work. I was very flattered. I complimented him in turn. From there the subject moved to politics and religion. I’m not sure how it all began. It could have been me lamenting the fact that so many younger bloggers have extremely short attention spans (some comment that the essays I write are “soooooo long”). Or it could have been the observation that John, because of his strongly held opinions, seems to have become a magnet for left-leaning fire eaters. All I can remember is that we moved very quickly from minutia to cosmic things.

The news that dominated our discussion was Israel’s pullout from Gaza and the West Bank. Nancy’s mother opened the discussion by expressing her concerns from her point of view, worrying that the pullout was tantamount to surrender to the Palestinian terrorists. John and I tried to reassure her, reminding her that, strategically, this was probably Israel’s best option. That didn’t seem to help. “What about the all the prophecy of the end times?” she asked. Before John and I could respond she answered for us. “We can’t abandon Israel. We just can’t.” I tried again to reassure her. “You can’t make Bible prophecies happen. We need to support Israel when she’s right, we need to support her when she makes strategic decisions and we also need to work toward peace for all parties in the Middle-East.”

I think in the end my words must have seemed much more like the words of Job’s comforters than words of wisdom.

We’re all feeling the strain of the times. The news is moving faster than our ability to make sense of it. Oil prices are skyrocketing and morality seems to be descending as rapidly. Public and political discourse is becoming fractured. The American economy is booming, with the lowest unemployment rate on record, while famine grips Niger. The international community laments the wars and famines, yet stands idly by while thousands die at the hands of tyrants. The unthinkable seems to be unfolding daily. Terrorists have caught the fancy of America’s political left who have picked up the murderer’s mantras. “America is the great Satan.” “Israel is a terrorist state.” In North Korea Kim is building atomic bombs while his people eat grass.

The events spiral out of control while creation groans under the weight of the mounting sins.

It’s now Tuesday and I’m remembering back to a Valentine’s Day two years ago now. The air was full of conflicting messages then, too. I expressed my thoughts that day with the following words:

Valentine’s Day
Phil Dillon
© 2003 Phil Dillon

Friday, February 14, 5:00 A.M. – I get up as quietly as I can and go out to the pickup truck to get the card and the gift. I shuffle through some old newspapers and dig them out. I go inside, make the morning coffee and plant the card and the gift next to the coffee pot. The gift is a piece of Czech crystal. I’m hoping it will bring Nancy memories of a trip we made to the Czech Republic a few years ago. In my mind’s eye I visualize Nancy reminiscing about dinners served at Milos O’Partney’s Inn. She’s sitting, dreamily, a fire warming her, Arnie the St. Bernard at her feet guarding her, and Milos and his wife serving exquisite food and wine and even more exquisite hospitality. The front of the card has a calico cat snuggling up to a golden retriever who seems to be basking in the glow of the attention he’s getting. The inside of the card reads, “Some relationships just can’t be explained.” As I pour my first cup of morning coffee I think, “Yeah, that’s us for sure.”

Friday, February 14, 5:22 A.M. – I have some time to sit, read, and think. I read Jeremiah’s words – “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. Peace, peace, they say, and there shall be no peace.” I then stop and consider the theme carried by three of Israel’s prophets who alternately tell us to “Beat swords into plowshares and then, paradoxically, tell us to “Beat plowshares into swords.” I gaze across the coffee table. Book titles gaze back at me –
The Two Faces of IslamThe Threatening StormWhy We FightMaking PatriotsPeace Like a River.

Friday, February 14, 6:30 A.M. – I can’t resist the temptation and go upstairs hoping to make just enough noise to wake Nancy without being too obvious. By the time I get to the top of the stairs I see that she’s already awake. I go back downstairs and wait. In a few minutes I hear the shuffling of her feet and then hear the words that have become so familiar to me over the years – “A gift for me? Oh, Philly, it’s beautiful…Thank you.”

Friday, February 14, 6:40 A.M. – Nancy sits, coffee in hand, in her wingback chair. I gaze at her. I smile and tell her “I love you.” She smiles back. “I love you too.” I try to think of something more profound to say but wisely give up. I sense that there’s something far deeper going on inside of me to be captured in words. I decide to just sit and gaze at her, hoping she’ll know what’s going on inside of me. She gazes back. I somehow sense that same something going on inside of her. It’s also too profound to express in words. We sit silently, accepting the moment for what it is. There are no “sweet nothings.” There’s only a morning silence pregnant with unspoken sonnets flowing between us.

Friday, February 14, 6:55 A.M. – Nancy breaks the silence. “You know, I’m really wondering about the trip to Ireland right now. I mean, it’s probably nothing. It’s not that I’m afraid. I think it’s just the times. I’m sure everything would be okay, but I’m not sure we could enjoy the trip with all that’s lingering in the air right now.” I listen and gather my thoughts. There really is something in the air. It’s not anthrax. It’s not VX. It’s just…something. I think ahead a few weeks. The unthinkable has now become thinkable. We’re going to be getting on a jetliner in Chicago bound for Dublin. Thoughts seemingly dredged up from some pit now race through my mind. “Thousands of gallons of fuel.” “A tempting target.” I pause. The thought of being eulogized by Peter Jennings, Chris Matthews, and Aaron Brown now becomes more than I can bear. The thought of Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon pleading for “Peace, peace,” as my DNA is being splattered all over the Sears Tower brings me to the brink of the abyss. I try to put a brave face on my thoughts. “Let’s give it a few days before we decide.” I think it’s my way of compromising with the current reality.

Friday, February 14, 7:15 A.M. – It’s Valentine’s Day. Love is in the air. But, I know somehow there is more. It’s all wound up together on this special day. The deep, profound love that I have for Nancy is also wound up with other things in the air. It’s a beautiful evening meal in Prague. It’s tea at Beuley’s in Dublin. It’s September 11, 2001 in New Mexico. It’s Osama. It’s Saddam. It’s the “Orange Alert.” It’s all wound up together. I’m told that the German theologians have two terms for expressing history, one expresses the facts and dates, the other expresses what they view as the unseen hand driving history to “some” conclusion. They’re not sure what that conclusion is and that, of course, is what makes German theology German theology. Nothing, as they see is either firm or certain. They call the two schools “history” and “high history.” As I sit and cast another gaze at the one I love I can almost see two rivers colliding. One, as the poet has said, is filled with “Armies on the march and evil reports.” The other is filled with unread sonnets and gazes cast from heart to heart and eye to eye, expressing love too deep for words.

Friday, February 14 – 8:05 A.M. – I leave for work, my daily pilgrimage south through the Kansas Flint Hills to Wichita. As I ease on to the Kansas Turnpike I reflect once again on all that’s in the air. It’s Valentine’s Day in the shadow of September 11, Osama, and Saddam. I turn the radio on to 89.7, National Public Radio. A sultry New Age voice is now reminding me that I’ve also got to worry about Kim. I turn, momentarily, my eyes straining as they try to focus to the east across the highway, hoping to see something that will drown out the added burden brought so seductively to me. I search the horizon and wonder what the day will bring as I begin to see clouds gathering in the east. Anthrax? VX? I plead to Heaven. “You’ve promised You’d split the eastern sky. It’s all twisted, Lord. It’s all twisted. The pretty people, the beautiful people, the people with the straight teeth and the crooked smiles seem to be ruling the day now and they’re calling good evil and evil good. Maranatha…Maranatha.”

Friday, February 14, 8:38 A.M. – I turn the radio off. It’s Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2003. As I move south along the highway I think of all that’s in the air. I think of love. I think of war. I think of sonnets drifting slowly across the Flint Hills. I think of menacing words hissing across the airwaves. I think once more of love. It’s Valentine’s Day and I sense deeply that the air is…..full.

The same conflicting images that burdened me two years ago have come back to haunt me today. It is now, as it was then, all twisted. While I know the end is good, I must admit that it’s hard to see. Like the marathoner at the wall, I feel a sense of weariness, of helplessness. I know the end, the goal, is truly near, but the events of my time are conspiring to drown out the hope of their coming. The realities of these days seem to be at war with the realities to come.

I think now of the words of comfort I offered Nancy’s mother Sunday night. We cannot make it happen. All we can do is our best to sow in hope, to live as if we really believe that in the end good will triumph over evil, justice will prevail, and all the tears will be wiped away.

As I close I think of the words of a fellow pilgrim, expressing the hope I must cling to:

“The iron hand, it ain’t no match for the iron rod,
The strongest wall will crumble and fall to a mighty God.
For all those who have eyes and all those who have ears
It is only He who can reduce me to tears.
Don’t you cry and don’t you die and don’t you burn
For like a thief in the night, He’ll replace wrong with right
When He returns.”

“Truth is an arrow and the gate is narrow that it passes through,
He unleashed His power at an unknown hour that on one knew.
How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?
Can I cast it aside, all this loyalty and this pride?
Will I ever learn?
That there’ll be no peace, that the war won’t cease
Until He returns”

“Surrender your crown on this blood-stained ground, take off your mask,
He sees your deeds, He knows your needs even before you ask.
How long can you falsify and deny what is real?
How long can you hate yourself for the weakness you conceal?
Of every earthly plan that be known to man, He is unconcerned.
He’s got plans of his own to set up His throne
When He returns.”

The words may seem illusory, but they are trustworthy and true. He will return! While I cannot make it happen, I know that one day He will split the eastern sky. He will return!

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Their Blood Cries Out From the Ground

Genesis 4:9-10 (New Living Translation)

9 “Afterward the LORD asked Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?”
“I don't know!” Cain retorted. “Am I supposed to keep track of him wherever he goes?”
10But the LORD said, “What have you done? Listen--your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground!”

Cindy Sheehan has become the hero of the left. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida has crowned her as the symbol for all grieving mothers who’ve lost children in this conflict. She’s Maureen Dowd’s darling.

As I’ve read the account of her “vigil” over the past few days I’ve asked myself how she was able to gain such a foothold in the media while other mothers, whose losses were every bit as painful and tragic as hers, did not. I was trying to understand it all the other day as I read an editorial by Patrick Kelley in our local newspaper. According to him it was all about freedom of speech. He likened it to the same freedom Fred Phelps, the homophobe and America hater, has to spew his hatred.

There’s no doubt about it. She has a right to freely express herself. She has the same freedom, as an American, as her son, Casey, had to make a decision to re-enlist in the military. He did so, knowing that he would almost certainly be cast into harm’s way. Why? Was it a death wish that drove him? Was it sport? Was it the thrill of combat? No, no, a thousand times no. It was freedom that motivated him. He fought, and died honorably, serving a just cause. He died so that others might taste the freedom he’d always known.

The other night Ms. Sheehan was interviewed by Chris Matthews. What follows is the meat of the exchange:

MATTHEWS: “Can I ask you a tough question? A very tough question.”
MATTHEWS: “All right. If your son had been killed in Afghanistan, would you have a different feeling?”
SHEEHAN: “I don't think so, Chris, because I believe that Afghanistan is almost the same thing. We're fighting terrorism. Or terrorists, we're saying. But they're not contained in a country. This is an ideology and not an enemy. And we know that Iraq, Iraq had no terrorism. They were no threat to the United States of America.”
MATTHEWS: “But Afghanistan was harboring, the Taliban was harboring al-Qaida which is the group that attacked us on 9/11.”
SHEEHAN: “Well then we should have gone after al-Qaida and maybe not after the country of Afghanistan.”
MATTHEWS: “But that's where they were being harbored. That's where they were headquartered. Shouldn't we go after their headquarters? Doesn't that make sense?”
SHEEHAN: “Well, but there were a lot of innocent people killed in that invasion, too. ... But I'm seeing that we're sending our ground troops in to invade countries where the entire country wasn't the problem. Especially Iraq. Iraq was no problem. And why do we send in invading armies to march into Afghanistan when we're looking for a select group of people in that country?”

The words are eerily familiar to words spoken along diplomatic channels from Bill Clinton’s State Department to an official of Afghanistan’s Taliban regime:

“U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan William B. Milam held a secret meeting with an unidentified senior Taliban official in September 2000 and assured him that international sanctions on the Taliban would end if bin Laden were expelled from Afghanistan, newly declassified documents show.”

“The ambassador added that the U.S. was not against the Taliban, per se,” and “was not out to destroy the Taliban,” Milam wrote in a secret cable to Washington, recounting his meeting.”

“A declassified version of the cable was released Thursday, obtained by George Washington University's National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act.”

“Milam told the Taliban official — whose name is excised from the declassified document — that bin Laden was the main impediment to better relations between the Taliban and the United States.”

“If the U.S. and the Taliban could get past bin Laden, we would have a different kind of relationship,” Milam said he told the official.”

As I read back and forth between Patrick Kelley’s remarks and media coverage Ms. Sheehan has garnered, I saw that there was far more to this than grief or freedom.

I thought it all through for a day and then penned my thoughts in a short editorial response to the Gazette. That letter follows:

I read Patrick Kelley’s comments on Cindy Sheehan with great interest.

She has every right to express her opinion, as does Fred Phelps, but that’s not what this is really about. It’s all about access to have that opinion expressed.

The media, rightly so, has relegated Phelps to the back pages. To be honest, they shouldn’t even give him that. He’s defamed his country and the faith he claims to embrace. But I suppose he sells copy and that’s the mother’s milk of journalism nowadays.

If this were really about freedom of speech the Gazette and newspapers around this country would (or should) long ago have granted unfettered access to the other mothers who grieve over sons or daughters lost, yet still proudly support our effort in Iraq.

Perhaps, if Mssr. Kelley and his cohorts are as altruistic as they claim, the Gazette could give access to them or to the hundreds of thousands of widows and orphans of Iraq who had fathers and husbands run through Saddam’s shedders or loved ones whose eyes were gouged out by Saddam’s henchmen. But that won’t happen because these souls, forgotten in the media rush to lionize a grieving mother who shares their agenda, would, with quiet dignity, only say “thanks.” That doesn’t sell copy or serve the media’s agenda, so you probably won’t read or see much about it.

Just recently Ms. Sheehan broadened the scope of her internationalism. To the delight of MSNBC she declared that the liberation of Afghanistan was a mistake. Perhaps, in the interest of free speech, the Gazette could offer equal access to the widows of 9/11, made so by terrorists trained and tacitly supported in Afghanistan.

But, that’s not likely to happen. As I said before, this is all about access, agendas, and selling copy.

You see, what this current “vigil” and the attention the media and the Democratic Party are paying to it amounts to is a marriage of ideology. Cindy Sheehan is using the media and the media is using her. While I hope and pray that she is truly a grieving mother, I don’t feel very comfortable in believing so, based on what I’ve seen and read during the past week. But I have no doubt that to the media covering this story love or grief has little to do with it. Nor do I have any doubt that altruism is not what’s motivating Bill Nelson or other Democrats who are lionizing Ms. Sheehan. Do I believe that Maureen Dowd really cares about Cindy Sheehan? No! To Ms. Dowd this is, as it is for Patrick Kelley here in Emporia, about making copy.

Why do I say so?

I asked Patrick Kelley and the Gazette if they would give other grieving mothers access to their PAID subscribers. It was a rhetorical question, really, because I know what the answer would be. They haven’t before and they won’t now. And, the drive to sell copy and agenda is only more pronounced as the media outlet or newspaper gets larger or better known.

Since this seems to be the case I’ve decided to give voice to what other mothers have been unable to express in this agenda driven spectacle.

First, there’s this from the mothers of Halabja, the village that was gassed by Saddam’s cousin “Chemical Ali:”

Then there’s this. I wonder what the mother of this poor Iraqi soul might say to Maureen Dowd or Bill Nelson:

And I wonder what the mothers of those buried in these mass graves, courtesy of Saddam, might say if the Emporia Gazette were to grant them access:

Ms. Sheehan told MSNBC that Afghanistan under Taliban rule was “no problem.” So did Bill Clinton’s State Department. What do you suppose this mother of Herat might have to say to her?
Finally, I wonder what Ms. Sheehan, Maureen Dowd, and others on the left might say to these words, penned by Ronald Griffin, whose son died in Iraq:

“To many loved ones, there are few if any “what ifs.” They, like their fallen heroes before them, live in the world as it is and not what it was or could have been. Think of the sacrifices that have brought us to this day. We as a country made a collective decision. We must now live up to our decision and not deviate until the mission is complete.”

“Thirty-five years ago, a president faced a similar dilemma in Vietnam. He gave in and we got “peace with honor.” To this day, I am still searching for that honor. Today, those who defend our freedom every day do so as volunteers with a clear and certain purpose. Today, they have in their commander in chief someone who will not allow us to sink into self-pity. I will not allow him to. The amazing part about talking to the people left behind is that I did not want them to stop. After speaking to so many I have come away with the certainty of their conviction that in a large measure it's because of the deeds and sacrifices of their fallen heroes that this is a better and safer world we now live in.”

“Those who lost their lives believed in the mission. To honor their memory, and because it's right, we must believe in the mission, too.”

“We refuse to allow Cindy Sheehan to speak for all of us. Instead, we ask you to learn the individual stories. They are glorious. Honor their memories.”

“Honor their service. Never dishonor them by giving in. They never did.”

I well remember “peace with honor.” I served in Vietnam from 1965 to 1966. The Cindy Sheehans and Maureen Dowd’s of this world got what they wanted back then. All it took was abandoning twenty-five million people to tyranny. If they had their way today we’d abandon fifty-five million more to the Taliban and Saddam’s torture chambers.

That’s what’s being played out near the President’s ranch in Crawford. It has little to do with being our brother’s keeper. It’s, sadly, all about agenda, access, and money.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Fool's Logic

“All cats die”

“Socrates is dead”

“Therefore, Socrates is a cat”

- From the logician’s “A” form proposition in Eugene Ionesco’s Rhinoceros (1959)

This morning I read a small portion of a post from a left-leaning blog that shall remain nameless. The blogger, a so-called liberal, wrote a post taunting supporters of the war in Iraq to respond to him, with ironclad evidence, about why they believed we were right to go to war to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

Most bloggers who read what he wrote decided, wisely, not to respond. The reason I say that it was a wise decision is that it was clear that no evidence, regardless of how compelling, was going to change his mind. As I saw it was a bit like getting nose to nose with a bully who’s told you politely that your shoelaces are untied. Just as soon as you look down you see the uppercut approaching your chin. In other words, there was no benevolent intent to begin with.

That didn’t stop one intrepid blogger from responding, though. He attempted to make the moral case for going to war. Our left-leaning friend read the response and replied, “George Bush never made a moral argument for this war.” The logic was amazing. Since George Bush failed to make a moral case for ousting Saddam, the reasoning went, there was no moral case at all.

To make it a bit clearer I’ll put it in syllogism form, so that you can compare it to the logic Eugene Ionesco ridiculed in his 1960 classic. It looks something like this:

There may have been a moral case for invading Iraq

George Bush made no moral case for invading Iraq

Therefore, there was no moral case for invading Iraq

If weren’t such a serious error it would be as silly as the syllogism Ionesco used to poke fun at the logician in his play “Rhinoceros.”

But while it might be funny to attempt to prove that Socrates is a cat or, for that matter, that a dog is a cat (both usually have four legs), using such flawed reasoning to support an anti-war position serves no useful purpose. It’s not only counter-productive, it’s dangerous.

The reason for logical, clear thinking is to clarify and enlighten and the blogger’s logic only revealed a lack of understanding, possibly under-girded by intense hatred of George Bush. That’s not good interpersonal logic and it’s not a foundation sound enough to build a worldview on.

That, however, hasn’t stopped the left from pushing the anti-war button. In addition to the logic used there are mantras that go with the territory. How often have we heard in the past two or three years, “I know that Saddam Hussein was a brutal tyrant, but…..” I think you all know what’s coming next. “But it’s an internal matter.” “Didn’t we prop him up in the seventies and eighties?” “If he was our ally in the seventies, how has he become our enemy now?” “It’s none of our business.” “Why should Americans die if others aren’t willing to die for this cause along with us?”

There are other questions, but I believe I’ve provided enough to make my point.

I’ve said since the beginning of our involvement in Iraq that the moral case for invading and overthrowing Saddam was the most compelling. Nothing that’s happened since has changed my mind. During that time, I’ve made the case in writing. What I’d like to do now is once again put my reasons for supporting the initial invasion and the ongoing effort in moral terms.

The morality of the cause can be expressed in sweeping terms. First, it can be expressed in American political terms. Next, in can be expressed in geopolitical terms. Then, it can be expressed in theological terms. Finally, it can be expressed in local and interpersonal terms.

I’m a Democrat. “Why,” you ask, “Would a Democrat support “George Bush’s War?” I do so, because I believe the cause is just and I do so because Democrats have, until the past thirty years, supported just causes. For example, in his declaration of war against Germany and the Axis powers on April 2, 1917, Woodrow Wilson made the following observation about the false sense of security that neutrality had brought the country:

“Our object now, as then, is to vindicate the principles of peace and justice in the life of the world as against selfish and autocratic power and to set up among the really free and self-governed peoples of the world such a concert of purpose and of action as will henceforth ensure the observance of those principles. Neutrality is no longer feasible or desirable where the peace of the world is involved and the freedom of its peoples, and the menace to that peace and freedom lies in the existence of autocratic governments backed by organized force which is controlled wholly by their will, not by the will of their people. We have seen the last of neutrality in such circumstances. We are at the beginning of an age in which it will be insisted that the same standards of conduct and of responsibility for wrong done shall be observed among nations and their governments that are observed among the individual citizens of civilized states.”

“We have no quarrel with the German people. We have no feeling toward them but one of sympathy and friendship. It was not upon their impulse that their government acted in entering this war. It was not with their previous knowledge or approval. It was a war determined upon as wars used to be determined upon in the old, unhappy days when peoples were nowhere consulted by their rulers and wars were provoked and waged in the interest of dynasties or of little groups of ambitious men who were accustomed to use their fellowmen as pawns and tools.”

Wilson’s declaration and statement of principles was powerful, and these principles were being advanced by the leader of the Democratic Party.

John F. Kennedy, the President I identified with in my youth, made it clear to the world that the United States was going to advance the principles Woodrow Wilson had outlined two generations earlier. His words have found an honored place in history:

“We observe today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom—symbolizing an end, as well as a beginning—signifying renewal, as well as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears prescribed nearly a century and three quarters ago.”

“The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe—the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.”

“We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.”

“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

“This much we pledge—and more.”

The principles are clear, and as a Democrat I proudly support them. I’m at a loss as to why so many of my fellow Democrats have abandoned those principles, especially now when their support is needed.

I believe that George Bush was acting out of the best traditions of the Democratic Party two years ago. You see, Democrats, in principle, oppose tyranny and support freedom.

I believe I’ve made the moral case on that basis, but let me go on.

After the Second World War the United Nations was formed. In its charter, the nations of the world agreed upon the following principle:

“To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace”

There was a clear understanding in Article I of the U.N. charter that the international community had a responsibility to foster peaceful relations in the world and the responsibility to take “collective measures” to either prevent or remove threats to world peace.

That statement of principle was further clarified by a commission was convened by Kofi Annan in 2001. What follows is an excerpt from the commission’s findings titled “The Responsibility to Protect: Principles for Military Intervention:”

“The Just Cause Threshold”

“Military intervention for human protection purposes is an exceptional and extraordinary measure. To be warranted, there must be serious and irreparable harm occurring to human beings, or imminently likely to occur, of the following kind:”

“Large scale loss of life, actual or apprehended (my emphasis added), with genocidal intent or not, which is the product either of deliberate state action, or state neglect or inability to act, or a failed situation; or”

“Large scale ethnic cleansing, actual or apprehended, whether carried out by killing, forced expulsion, acts of terror or rape.”

The principles and terms are very clear and Saddam’s Iraq clearly met the principles of military intervention. Yet, the United Nations failed to live up to its responsibilities. That failure was rooted in the institution’s history from the early nineties on. The international community, including the United States, failed to intervene in Rwanda in the early nineties and the result was nearly a million deaths. The United Nations failed to act in the Balkans and the United States, with minimal support from its allies, had to intervene militarily.

This was the United Nations that, at the turn of the millennium, was willing to talk to Saddam while he was brutalizing his own people. In doing so, it violated its principles. There was a clear moral mandate to intervene in Iraq and the United Nations refused to do anything. Later events have shown that there were economic reasons for the failure. While anti-war activists were chanting “No blood for oil,” United Nations diplomats were reaping huge economic rewards from “food for oil.” Some very, very close to Kofi Annan, the U.N. Secretary General, were receiving millions of dollars in bribes from Saddam’s henchman.

With all the hush money he needed to stay in power, Saddam played the international community like a cheap violin. The bribes bought Saddam time, plenty of time to continue inflicting misery on the Shia and the Kurds, on men, women, children, anyone he perceived as an enemy.

The United Nations had a moral obligation to intervene militarily, but it refused to do so. Inaction had been purchased

The United States and its coalition intervened when the United Nations refused to. It was the right thing to do! I am absolutely convinced!

Theologically, there was ample basis for military intervention in Iraq. For Christians the principle of just intervention is outlined in many places, including the theology passed on from Augistine, Aquinas, and beyond. Even more important than the work of the Church Fathers, though, is Holy Writ. It demonstrates to me God expects us to act on behalf of those who cannot for themselves. One example of this principle is found in the story of the “Good Samaritan.” In the account an expert in the law asked Jesus who his neighbor was. Seeing that the man was trying to “justify” himself and his inactivity, Jesus responded:

Luke 10:30-37 (New Living Translation)

30”Jesus replied with an illustration: “A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes and money, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.
31By chance a Jewish priest came along; but when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32A Temple assistant[
a] walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.
33Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt deep pity. 34Kneeling beside him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with medicine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35The next day he handed the innkeeper two pieces of silver[
b] and told him to take care of the man. ‘If his bill runs higher than that,’ he said, ‘I'll pay the difference the next time I am here.’
3 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.”

To his credit, the expert in the law answered Jesus’ question correctly. I believe it’s a question many of my fellow Democrats either ignore or refuse to answer. Partisan politics and attempts to regain political power have blinded them.

Theologically, there is a clear case for intervention, but political expediency seems to have trumped theology for many Democrats and left-thinking people when it comes to Iraq.

How would our communities look if we adopted the philosophy the left applies to Iraq? Earlier in this essay I said that I’ve heard the mantra, “Yes he was a brutal tyrant, but…..” It’s another way of saying that since he wasn’t bothering us we shouldn’t have bothered him. Applied locally, to Emporia, for example, it would sound something like this. “Yes, rapists and murderers are terrible people, but I haven’t been raped or murdered, so there is no reason to intervene.” “Pedophiles do victimize the weak and innocent, but my children have never been brutalized by one, so there is no reason to intervene.” It sounds almost insane, but that’s the crux of the argument many on the left make when it comes to Iraq.

If that philosophy were allowed to dominate it wouldn’t be long till we disbanded all of our law enforcement agencies and burned all the law books. It wouldn’t take long until the muggers, the murderers, the rapists, the pedophiles, the extortionists, the Mafia dons, and criminals of all stripes gained control of our communities. Who knows? Perhaps we could all come to a place where we made accommodations. The criminals could list themselves in the Yellow Pages and the rest of us could call them before we ventured outside our doors. The conversations would be about as sensible as Ionesco’s or the leftist’s syllogism. “Say, I’m Citizen Dillon and I’m planning on walking down Commercial Street later today.
“How long will you be out?”
“About an hour and a half.”
“That’ll be forty-nine, ninety-five, plus tax.”
“Do you take American Express?”
“Great, thanks.”
“Don’t forget to keep your confirmation number. That way, if any rogue muggers or murderers try anything you’ll be protected.”
“You’re the greatest. Thanks again.”
“Have a nice day.”

“Silly,” you say. “Unfathomable,” you say. Yes it is, but that’s the exact logic the left is applying to Iraq and the war on terror.

The moral case for intervention is there, whether George Bush has expressed it or not (he actually has). The moral case for intervention is there, despite the fact that the United Nations failed to act on behalf of Saddam’s victims. The moral case has, until the eighties and nineties, when political power shifted to the right, been the strength of the Democratic Party. Their abandonment of principle in no way nullifies the moral case. The moral case is strong, and it is compelling. It’s grounded in sound Democratic politics, just international law, good theology, and common sense interpersonal relations. It’s time for the party of my youth and the fire eaters on the left to see that!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Pickin' A Fight

Psalm 144:1 (King James Version)

1 “Blessed be the LORD my strength which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight”

One of my favorite all time movie scenes comes in Mel Gibson’s “Braveheart.” In the scene, William Wallace, played by Gibson, has gathered the Scottish clans on the field of battle against the army of Edward I. His aim is to end the English occupation of Scotland. Wallace is prepared for battle, but the other clan leaders appear to be willing to compromise. The English bring a small contingent to the center of the field, carrying terms of surrender. As the clan leaders begin to ride out to hear the terms, one asks Wallace what his intentions are. His answer is brief, and to the point, “I’m goin’ to pick a fight!” he declares.

Wallace paid a heavy price for his courage. He won the battle, but lost the war. He was betrayed, turned over to the English, tried, convicted, and executed in grisly fashion:

“On 23rd August 1305, he was executed. At that time (and for the next 550 years), the punishment for the crime of treason was that the convicted traitor was dragged to the place of execution, hanged by the neck (but not until he was dead), and disemboweled (or drawn) while still alive. His entrails were burned before his eyes, he was decapitated and his body was divided into four parts (or quartered). Accordingly, this was Wallace's fate. His head was impaled on a spike and displayed at London Bridge, his right arm on the bridge at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, his left arm at Berwick, his right leg at Perth, and the left leg at Aberdeen.”

While those events took place over seven hundred years ago, I find that they resonate with me and my view of the new millennium world.

I suppose we’re more civilized in much of the world now. We don’t draw and quarter people. We don’t decapitate them and impale their heads on spikes in public places. We have organizations and laws to protect civilization from tyrants of all stripes, and we have a generally accepted sense of decency.

Or do we?

It seems to me that, while the battles today are often waged on different battlefields than centuries ago, and the punishment meted out to those who rebel against the occupiers of the social landscape seems benign, the end result I observe is every bit as gruesome as the events of William Wallace’s day. There are only two differences I can see over time. First, the skewering today is much more sophisticated, much more polite, than it was seven hundred years ago. And, second, the battles aren’t taking place on open fields; they’re taking place in shopping malls, our court system, and in our public media.

Let me explain.

This past Monday Nancy and I took my oldest granddaughter to a large indoor mall in Topeka to get some back to school clothes, etc. for her. While we did find some of the things she needed, we also found out how crass the marketing aimed at America’s young people has become. Our first stop was a Spencer’s store. Ashley was looking for some pin on buttons for the book bag we’d gotten her earlier in Kansas City. I could see why she’d chosen this store as I looked at the display window when we entered. There were signs touting back-to-school sales, bright colors outlining the displays, and so forth. The store’s target audience was clear – this was a place made for America’s youth.

As Ashley began her search I walked around, curious about what, beyond the sales and colorful displays, was attracting young people. This is what I found. There were tee-shirts by the hundreds, almost all of which had the same theme and the same words emblazoned on them. Almost all of them were black, with red, pink, lime green, or silver lettering. And, almost all of them used the “F” word generously. One read “F” off. Another read “F” you. Another read don’t tell me what the “F” to do. The more I looked, the more familiar it seemed. I began to wonder, based on my experience as a blogger, if some young bloggers group had been moonlighting for Spencer’s to support their internet habit.

But that was just the beginning. At the front of the store there was a display of phallic symbols. There were phallic cookies, made expressly to dip in milk or soda. There were penile enlargement devices, boxed in bright colors. But there was even more. On the opposite side of that display was another filled with miniature ceramic teddy bears, made to be sold as key chains. Whoever had made these things had done their homework well. They’d seen Boyd’s bears and this was a clear attempt to capitalize on the their popularity. But these bears were bearing another message altogether, a counter-culture message. For example, there was one with a young male teddy bear dressed only in his underpants, with his right hand strategically placed in his pants, masturbating. There was another of a young male bear engaged in sex with a sheep. There was another who was in the throes of anal intercourse with a pig.

I’m sure that by now that many younger readers of this blog have tuned me out. In their minds I’m just a puritanical old man who is totally out of step with the times. If that’s the case I intend to stay out of step with the times. I find messages like bestiality and anal intercourse offensive enough for an adult, but I’m especially offended that this is being peddled out in the open to kids, with cute little teddy bears on the ends of key chains used as bait.

I’m sure the marketers see this as part of a three step process. First, captivate them, then capture them, and finally enslave them.

I think I can even hear the peddlers’ responses as I write. “If you don’t like it, don’t shop here.” “We’ve got the right to do what we’re doing.” Let’s see if I have it right. They have the right to peddle bestiality and anal intercourse and I have the right to ignore it, to walk by and just pretend it’s not happening. It's as simple as that.

It all has a familiar ring to it. Just ignore it like the world ignored tyrants like Saddam Hussein who ran hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of human beings through shredding machines, firing squads, and torture chambers for years.

Well, I can’t. My eyes are opened and I see all of this for what it’s worth. On the international scene we ignored a grisly economy of scale for close to a generation while civilized men profited from the bribes that induced ignorance and indifference to the plight of the tortured, killed, and maimed. I observe the things going on at the mall and what I see is a smaller, subtler, economy of scale at work. Our kids’ morals and dignity are being run through the shredders of profit and indecency, propped up by free market economics, and, parents and adults, the ones who should be responsible for the welfare of those being abused, are being bribed into silence with “enlightenment.”
I have no doubt what their response to me would be if we were having a conversation about all of this right now. “Enlightened people,” they would say, “allow their children the freedom to explore life in all its dimensions.” I also know what my response to them would be – “Get your head out of the sixties. Get them out of your hind most parts. Stop chanting “enlightenment” and wake up to the reality around you. Your sons and daughters are being run through the profit shredders and mall torture chambers. And, all the while it’s happening, you’re sitting around sipping zinfandel and quoting Noam Chomsky or some other darling of enlightenment. Wake up, for God’s sake. Wake up!”

But the mall is only one of the battlefields where this war is being waged. Our courts, especially those at the highest levels, are also an integral part of this conspiracy of enlightenment. For years now they’ve ruled against religion in any form. That’s bad enough, but recent events have only compounded the damage they’re doing. One June 23rd, the Supreme Court ruled in Kelo vs. New London that private property interests could now be trumped by corporate interests, widening the reach of eminent domain to places it’s never before been. The message sent by the court is clear. Communities really don’t matter. The compelling interest, the glue that holds American society together, is economic. What does that mean for churches, synagogues, and mosques, the institutions that should really be the glue holding us together? Today ChristianityToday.com made the following observation about the June ruling:

“While many legal analysts say that a Supreme Court ruling broadening the definition of eminent domain will primarily hurt the poor, Christian churches may face an increased risk of having their property seized by local government.”

“Lawyers for religious organizations sharply criticized the high court's June 23 decision in Kelo v. New London. The Court ruled that a Connecticut town could condemn private homes to promote primarily commercial interests, not for what has traditionally been known as public use, such as the construction of a freeway.”

“City governments will be emboldened to some extent by the Court's decision, and may begin to target church properties,” Richard Hammar, editor of Church Law and Tax Report, told CT.”

“Derek Gaubatz, director of litigation for the Becket Fund, concurred. “It is not an idle concern,” Gaubatz said. Because of their tax-exempt status, churches “will be in the crosshairs" of local governments seeking more tax revenue, he said.”

I’m sure that justices Ginsburg, Souter, Kennedy, et al, would argue that there was some higher, enlightened purpose, in what they did. But, in reality, with the stroke of five pens they found a back door into the institutions that, in their minds, have been stubbornly refusing to be enlightened.

Once they made their ruling they probably celebrated by playing enlightenment games like bridge or canasta. So much for enlightenment. Centuries ago Nero fiddled while Rome burned. The esteemed justices just updated the image, that’s all. They now bid in spades and clubs after pouring gasoline on the fire. But Nero is still Nero, no matter how pretty a robe you put on him.

Where is it all going? Who knows for sure? The one thing I can say is that it’s not heading in the right direction. As Bob Dylan once observed, we’ve “got gangsters in power and law breakers making the rules.

And, while all this is happening, the media is now descending on Crawford, Texas, to lionize Cindy Sheehan. Ms. Sheehan, a “grieving” mother of a son killed in Iraq, has something other grieving mothers don’t. She’s got media savvy, an agenda, and media support. With that in tow, she’s been transformed into a cause-celebre, a star. Not long ago she was an unknown, but today, thanks to an adoring media, she’s an expert on the war in Iraq and the long standing Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Her answer to it all has an all familiar ring to it. “Get out of Iraq, end our support of the “Jews,” and everything will be fine.” What does she know about these things? Not much. She’s a grieving mother and I suppose that counts for something. But there are over a thousand grieving mothers in this country right now and there are at least hundreds of thousands who’ve lost loved ones at Saddam’s hands who might have newsworthy opinions on American involvement in the Middle-East. But, no matter. The media shares her agenda and she is now an “expert” on international relations. She’s been all but anointed as a saint by CNN, Anderson Cooper, and their media cohorts and she’s loving every minute in the limelight they’re giving her.

I find it all rather ironic. I’ve never seen the media anoint any of Saddam’s victims for sainthood. Why? They were too busy cozying up to Saddam in the run-up to the war and too busy redefining terrorists as insurgents after the war to be concerned with people who’d had their sons and daughters murdered, raped, beaten, and run through shredders. And, they were too busy fawning all over the “insurgency” or protecting Judith Miller to care about them after Saddam was captured.

Every time I mention this to folks at our local newspaper I get the same response. “Freedom of the press,” they remind me. Hidden in that little message is the notion (which they would strenuously deny) that their freedom trumps all other freedoms. They try to sell me on the notion that what they print is all about truth and ideas. I’ve long since passed the place where I believe that. It’s all about agendas and power. They care no more about Cindy Sheehan than she cares about her lost son. In fact, I’ll be so bold as to say that, if they could, they would prop Saddam back up and hand him the reins of power once more. After all, tyrants make better copy than victims.

So, this tirade ends for me where it began, at the mall. The sights I saw on Monday were a catalyst. Now I want to pick a fight. My fingers, as Holy Writ says, want to fight. Our children, our institutions, our concepts, and our values are under assault. The assault is taking place in the Sunni Triangle. It’s taking place in the Kurdish north of Iraq. And, it’s taking place in our shopping malls, our courts, and our media. It’s a coup d’etat of sorts, a coup by consumption, a coup by fiat, and a coup by “enlightenment.” I see it happening and I want to fight.

Yesterday I received a wonderful series of questions from a commenter known as “Your Son.” This is what he had to say:

“Being a Gen Xer I would like to pose a question. Where does “vision” come from, and can one simply be given “vision” or must one be challenged to create their own “vision?” There have been no significant challenges for my generation. We've gone untested. Both World Wars, the Great Depression, the civil rights movement were all major challenges for their respective generations. Those challenges influenced people and shaped their vision. The most historically significant events of my lifetime are occurring in the present. These events are the ones that will test us. Over the last few years it already has. It has tested our resolve and our since of morality. The events of the last few years have also tested our political ideologies. Perhaps when these events become events of the past and not the present, we will have our vision.”

They’re really good questions and deserve answers.

First, the vision comes from both within and without. Go to your local mall and see for yourself, then go home and search your heart. You’ll see something then, too. Second, you must both create vision and open your heart to it. It will come to you as you come to it. If you do those things you will see the challenges of your generation.

I’ll close now with questions for “Your Son” and the generation he represents. Are you tired of being shredded by consumption? Are you tired of being brutalized by “enlightenment?” Are you tired of having values assaulted? If you are, there is only one thing you can do. You too must be ready to pick a fight.