Sunday, December 31, 2006

2007: Happy New Year

how is it possible to be happy over another year when more atrocities will occur? 
because each New Year is another year closer to the return of the King. 
justice will come. wrongs will be made right. the King is coming.

journal report: No Lessons Learned from the Holocaust?

 this paper (PDF) by Barbara Harff, 2003, was linked to in the wiki article on Democide and i found it a useful model to evaluate world situations. it's 17 pages long but some dense reading. what are her findings? democides are likely after political upheaval, with a prior history of genocide, exclusionary ideology of elite, autocratic leadership, ethnic minority leadership, and minimal cross border commerce. interestingly, international political relationships and poverty are not predictive of democide. what does this mean in expanded terms?
political upheaval - civil wars or status quo earthquakes (not democrat/republican) rattle unstable people and make them think that they must kill or be killed (a slippery slope argument with a very high cost result). tossing out monarchs seems to trigger big messes. in 1917 Russia cast off its Tsar. perhaps, though not mentioned in this report, Cromwell's bloody revolution in England falls into this category. Ivan the terrible cast off the restraints of his court boyars.
prior history of genocide - monarchies are not unknown for politicide, so when they are thrown off, history shows that killing alot of people keeps power out of their hands
exclusionary ideology - in worlds without grey, only black and white, purity and fidelity to ideology might keep one from being labeled and killed. one label is all it takes to get the death sentence
autocratic leadership
- dictators don't have checks and balances so they can make policies that kill at their whim, just like a king
ethnic minority leadership - if you have a chip on your shoulder and you get in power, why not treat those bullies the way that will teach them a lesson?
cross border commerce - trade restrictions don't affect countries that don't trade

Saturday, December 30, 2006

book report: Natural Home Heating

i picked up Greg Pahl's book, Natural Home Heating: The complete guide to renewable energy options from the library a few weeks ago and read it cover to cover. this book came from his own research in replacing his ancient boiler in his northern New England home. so he approached the project without an agenda. even better is that he had a budget to live within, and by the end of the book he realized he couldn't afford the new technology. he couldn't replace his old furnace, but he could afford bio-diesel, so that, finally, is his solution. i really appreciate a book written for the environmental pauper, such as myself. all the new technology is cool too and it's good to know about.

book report: Tipis and Yurts

i like the concept of round houses but the best my inter-library loan program could get me was a DIY book by Blue Evening Star called Tipis and Yurts: Authentic Design for Circular Shelters. after reading this book, i don't want to DIM (do it myself). i appreciate from afar what nomadic people were able to do.

CT: Red Light Rescue

Southeast Asia, unfortunately, is known for sex tourism. But, by God's grace, it also attracts believers to go and rescue those who are sexually exploited. Christianity today has a few articles on the ministries that are there.

Antwone Fisher

we watched this movie last night and we were moved. i admit i'm a sucker for sentimentality. regardless, the thing that struck me most is the need of so many children to be adopted. Fisher grew up in an abusive foster home, extremely abusive. but he ended up in the Navy and started to develop his identity and self-esteem, especially after being sent to a Navy psychologist. eventually, he wrote his story, and re-wrote the script 40 times before selling it to 20th Cent. Fox. Denzel Washington directed, acted, and produced this movie. the acting in this movie by all was excellent. the range of emotions that had to be performed by the cast was broad and surely a challenge.

our Christmas letter

my wife was inspired to write this in the middle of the night...

Friday, December 29, 2006

Islam exposure

There is something deeply, deeply wrong with Islam.

Originally, we started this website in the naive hope that perhaps Muslims just didn't realize the extent of the violence that is committed in the name of their religion. Perhaps if they understood, then they might be motivated to turn the critical eye inward and resolve those far more important issues that leave so many lives in agony and consume billions and billions of global dollars in security resources.

But, in our first several years of posting attacks, we never once heard from a Muslim who wrote to condemn the violence and resolve themselves to combating it. Neither did we see any change on the part of Muslim-American groups, or the other Islamic organizations across the globe, even as the body count mounted to levels that far exceed the damage done on 9/11.

And so, our mission is to present the truth about Islam and how it is so tragically different from other religion. We also hope to memorialize the victims of Islamic terror, and ensure that they do not die in obscurity as so many victims of Islam have in the last 1400 years.

For Westerners and others who ask, "Who are Muslims and why do they want to kill me?" we hope to provide answers. For those who swallow the falsehood that Islam is a Religion of Peace, we hope they will find enough reason to at least keep an open mind.

At the same time, we have no patience with name-calling, lies, or acts of violence. No Muslim should be harassed or harmed anywhere in the world because of his or her religion. Islam is a broad faith and every Muslim should be treated as an individual and judged only by his or her own words and deeds.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Merry Advent in India:carol singers arrested, churches burned

 December 27 (Compass Direct News) – Hindu extremists burned down a church in India on Saturday (December 23), arrested carol-singers on Christmas Eve and disrupted yuletide services in several states. One Christian suffered a fractured hand, and another lost his hearing.

Extremists burned down a thatched church in Boriguma area, Koraput district of Orissa state on Saturday night (December 23), preventing church members from celebrating Christmas there. The congregation had already decorated the building for Christmas festivities, but everything was destroyed in the fire.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

RNB: newly opened nazi archives

another disturbing article from the Religion News Blog

Within weeks of Hitler’s 1933 rise to power, the iron gates slammed shut on inmates of the first Nazi concentration camps. It was the start of an unparalleled experiment in persecution and genocide that expanded over the next 12 years into a pyramid of ghettos, Gestapo prisons, slave labor camps and, ultimately, extermination factories....

Collecting and analyzing fragmented reports, researchers at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum say they have pinpointed some 20,000 places of detention and persecution - three times more than they estimated just six years ago...

The “pyramid” ranged from death camps such as Auschwitz at the top, to secondary and tertiary detention centers. There were 500 brothels, where foreign women were put at the disposal of German officers, and more than 100 “child care facilities” where women in labor camps were forced to undergo abortions or had their newborns taken away and killed - usually by starvation - so the mothers could quickly return to work.

The earliest prisoners were communists, Social Democrats, Jehovah’s Witnesses and other political opponents, as well as homosexuals and common criminals. The Final Solution, which ultimately would claim 6 million Jewish lives, had not yet begun...

Organized killings began shortly after the war started in late 1939 at so-called “euthanasia sites,” where the victims were physically or mentally handicapped people or prisoners no longer capable of work. Estimates say the number reached 200,000.

By 1940, Jews in Poland and Russia were being confined in ghettos. As German men were needed to fight, men and women were brought from Poland, the Netherlands, the Soviet Union and other occupied nations to work in German industries. Labor camps proliferated.

In 1941 the Germans devised the Final Solution to exterminate Europe’s Jews. In September, even before the plan was formally approved, the SS began experimenting with gas chambers at Auschwitz, about 40 miles (60 kilometers) from the Polish city of Krakow.

Auschwitz was the largest of six camps whose primary purpose was to kill Jews at maximum speed. In 1941-42, more death camps were built in Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka and Majdanek.

By the time Germany capitulated in May 1945 and disbelieving Allied forces marched into the camps, 2.7 million people had been incinerated in the ovens or open pits of these six compounds. Of every three Jews in Europe at the start of the war, two were dead.

RNB: clash of islamic sects a reality

interesting article at the Religion News Blog by a Muslim for the Gulf News.

There are also the fundamentalists in Islam, who sow the seeds of violence throughout the Islamic region. Their terrorist acts are a shame. They greatly endanger the Islamic image in the world and they stand in the way of the Muslims regaining their civilised stance around the globe.

No matter what form the clashes take, the result is one: loss of human resources, loss of funds, exhausting the nation, further dividing it and weakening it on the development and constructional levels.

It is impossible to get out of this very dark tunnel with the ongoing clashes. For if the Islamic world is unable to be at peace internally, how will it live in peace and harmony with the other civilisations?

Before we head towards the dialogue of civilisations, our wise men have to rearrange and tidy up our Islamic house before it crashes down as a result of excessive internal violence.

There has to be a sincere internal initiative to conduct a political and spiritual dialogue between the different groups, sects, leadership and political capitals all around the Islamic world.

It is also high time for the moderate silent majority to regain its control over its destiny and decide their future in a peaceful and democratic manner, away from fundamentalism and violence and refusing the other.

Dr Abdul Khaleq Abdullah is professor of political science at UAE University, Al Ain.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

India: freedom of religion?

can't blame this on some backward tribals this time. what so threatens a man that he needs to beat up women because of their faith?

December 22 (Compass Direct News) – A group of Hindu extremists in the southern state of Karnataka have tortured two young women and a girl who converted to Christianity in an attempt to “reconvert” them to Hinduism.

The incident took place in Guruparahalli area, 12 kilometers (8 miles) from Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka, on December 14. A man identified only as Ramesh broke into the house of three sisters – Jyothi, 20; Nandhini, 18; and Jalaja, 16. He pressured them to reconvert and beat them for refusing.

The victims, who work in a garment factory, attend the Assembly of God church. Ramesh, who used to live nearby until three months ago, had been opposing the sisters since they converted to Christianity from Hinduism a few months ago.

“The extremists intruded into the house of the women in the evening and got violent upon finding a Bible and other Christian literature on a table,” Dr. Sajan K. George, national president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), told Compass.

The intruders told the sisters that they would give them whatever they could ask for, and that Jesus would do nothing for them. The sisters did not react. This made the extremists more furious, and they threw the Bible and Christian literature on the floor and stamped on them.

“The fanatics also replaced a Christian calendar with that of Sai Baba, a Hindu god,” George said. “They pressured the women to worship the picture of Sai Baba and apply vermillion on their forehead as a sign of their conversion to Hinduism.”

When the sisters refused to do so, the extremists beat them. “They pulled the youngest sister’s hair, dragged her and banged her against the wall,” he said. “They beat the other two sisters also very brutally. One of them fainted, as she is an asthmatic patient.”

Sadly, he added, the parents did not come to rescue their daughters. “The fanatics continued to beat and torture the sisters for over four hours and left the place only at 2 a.m.,” George said...

multiple Bible reading plans

the ESV blog offers several displays of reading plans out there

what is Christian meditation

John Armstrong writes, and I'm liking it,

St. Francis de Sales noted that “every meditation is a thought, but every thought is not meditation.” Simple reflection within the mind is much like a fly that moves from one place to another. There is activity and experience. But meditation is more like a honey bee who moves from flower to flower extracting the honey of divine love from the holy mysteries of the Christian faith. When we truly meditate we seek to do more than learn, we pursue the love of Christ in prayer actively through what we learn. This process is learned and all too rare among modern evangelicals.

We rightly think about many subjects but meditation always has a very specific reference to those thinking about those objects in our life whose consideration makes us more holy and devout. The devout soul will gather the honey of God’s truth, much like the bee, and store it for wintertime. In meditation we move form one mystery to another not merely to admire the beauty of the truth but to give our reflective attention to the divine purpose so that we can relish the honey and thus feed the soul.

One reason evangelicals quite often miss the specific ways that truth and mystery feed love and devotion in the heart is to be observed here. They study Scripture much the way a scientist studies science, following the procedures of modernity. They pull a text apart, analyze it, and then they even preach from it. They put the text into a system of theology, often a very rationally defensible system. And then they see devotion is arguing for their system or debating it over against rival systems. In so doing they miss the deep joy of meditation, a joy that truly feeds and nourishes the soul so the love of God becomes the primary matter in Scripture study and Christian reading and conversation.

Friday, December 22, 2006

reflections on the baby Jesus by N.T. Wright

i gotta give wright credit when its due. this is an excellent advent reflection.

Out of the thousands of things that follow directly from this reading of John, I choose three as particularly urgent.

First, John's view of the Incarnation, of the Word becoming flesh, strikes at the very root of the liberal denial which characterized mainstream theology thirty years ago and whose long-term effects are still with us. I grew up hearing lectures and sermons declaring that the idea of God becoming human was a categorical error. No human being could be divine; Jesus must therefore have been simply a human being, albeit (here the headmaster pats the little boy on the head) a very brilliant one. Jesus points to God, but he isn't actually God. A generation later, growing straight out of that school of thought, a clergyman wrote to me saying that the church doesn't know anything for certain. Remove the enfleshed and speaking Word from the center of your theology, and gradually the whole thing unravels, until all you're left with is the theological equivalent of the grin on the Cheshire Cat: a relativism whose only moral principle is that there are no moral principles, no words of judgment (because nothing is really wrong, except saying that things are wrong), no words of mercy (because you're all right as you are, so all you need is affirmation).

That's where our society stands right now, and John's Christmas message issues a sharp and timely reminder to relearn the difference between mercy and affirmation, between a Jesus who both embodies and speaks God's word of judgment and grace and a homemade Jesus who gives us good advice about discovering who we really are. No wonder John's Gospel has been so unfashionable in many circles.

There is a fad in some quarters about a "theology of incarnation," meaning that our task is to discern what God is doing in the world and to do it with him. But that is only half the truth, and the wrong half to start with. John's theology of the Incarnation is about God's Word coming as light into darkness, as a hammer that breaks the rock into pieces, as a fresh word of judgment and mercy. You might as well say that an incarnational missiology is about discovering what God is saying no to today and finding out how to say it with him. That was the lesson Barth and Bonhoeffer had to teach in Germany in the 1930s, and it's all too relevant as today's world becomes simultaneously more liberal and more totalitarian. This Christmas, get real, get Johannine, and listen again to the strange words spoken by the Word made flesh.

Second, John's prologue by its structure reaffirms the order of Creation at the point where it is being challenged today. John consciously echoes the first chapter of Genesis: "In the beginning God made heaven and earth; in the beginning was the Word" (v. ?). When the Word becomes flesh, heaven and earth are joined together at last, as God always intended. But the Creation story, which begins with the duality of heaven and earth, reaches its climax in the duality of male and female. When heaven and earth are joined together in Jesus Christ, the glorious intention for the whole of Creation is unveiled, reaffirming the creation of male and female in God's image. There is something about the enfleshment of the Word in John 1 that stands parallel to Genesis 1 and speaks of Creation fulfilled. We see what's going on: Jesus Christ has come as the Bridegroom, the one for whom the Bride has been waiting.

Not for nothing is Jesus' first sign to transform a wedding from disaster to triumph. Not for nothing do we find a man and a woman at the foot of the Cross. The same incipient gnosticism which says that true religion is about "discovering who we really are" is all too ready to say that who we really are may have nothing to do with being physically created as male or female. But the Christmas message is about the redemption of God's good world, his wonderful Creation, so that it can be the glorious thing it was made to be. This word is strange, even incomprehensible, in today's culture. But if you have ears to hear, then hear it.

Third, we return to the meal, the food whose name is strange, forbidding, even incomprehensible to those outside, but the most natural thing to those who know it. The little child comes and speaks to us of food that he offers: himself, his own body and blood. It is a hard saying, and those of us who know it well may need to remind ourselves just how hard it is, in case we have been dulled by familiarity into supposing that it's easy and undemanding. It isn't. It is the Word which judges the world and saves the world, the Word now turned into flesh, into matzo, Passover bread, the bread which is the flesh of the Christ child, given for the life of the world.

Christmas tree lights made by imprisoned Chinese pastors

from the WorldServe website
short video here
However, there is another story in each strand of Christmas lights, told in the little paper tag on the cord: Made in China. This story also has a powerful link to Jesus; Chinese pastors and believers, imprisoned for sharing their faith, perform much of the tedious manual labor. Many believers in China are persecuted and suffer greatly for professing Jesus as Lord and sharing His message of hope with others. For these Chinese pastors and believers, the same Christmas lights that remind Westerners of joy, togetherness, and peace are a harsh reminder of prison, pain and beatings.

The Facts
Most of the world is unaware of the torture that Chinese believers suffer.
While China presents a picture of increasing religious tolerance, Christians face constant harassment and the most intense persecution in the world.
On September 8, 1999, the Public Security Bureau classified house churches in China as "illegal cults."
As recently as August 2006, over 200 pastors were arrested for sharing their faith.
Upon arrest, believers are often immediately beaten.
Christians are usually thrown into prison without trial.
A prisoner's diet is generally 500 calories per day, the equivalent of two small bowls of soup and one roll.
While in prison, believers work hard labor for 16-20 hours per day and must try to meet impossible quotas.
When believers do not meet quota, they are beaten and sent back to finish the job, even if they must start the next day's work without sleep.
Some imprisoned believers have reported receiving only one glass of water each day; it was their choice to drink it or use it for a shower.

What is so Torturous About Making Christmas Lights?
Imagine sitting on cold or muddy ground with only a huge box of lights and wire in front of you. Without tools of any kind, you must assemble 3000–5000 lights per day. There is no time for rest or breaks. Quickly, your fingers become numb and bloody. Your teeth serve as your only crimping tools. Even as you work to complete your tasks, you know that you will be beaten severely if you don't get it all done.

Rushdoony, historical incompetence, racism and lunacy

Carl Trueman writes in the Reformation 21 blog about Holocaust denial

The latest edition of Harper's Magazine has an article by Jeff Sharlet on how the Christian right is reimagining US history. R J Rushdoony gets quite a few column inches but Sharlet misses the worst aspect of this man's history: Holocaust Denial.
Indeed, in his Institutes of Biblical Law, RJR has a truly horrible section where he reduces the number of Holocaust dead to (from memory) less than a million, and roots the cause in the winter cold, not a Zyklon-B facilitated act of conscious act of genocide, His sources? Paul Rassinier et al -- no credibility with professional historians, but very popular among skinheads, Klan freaks, the British National Party and characters like David Irving.

As a historian, I've had an amateur interest in the phenomenon of Holcaust Denial for well over a decade and I've come to the conclusion it is motivated by either (a) methodological incompetence vis a vi the use of sources; or (b) racist ideology which simply ignores or discounts any counter-evidence which does not suit the political program; or (c) mental illness; or (d) some combination of (a) to (c). It is not like disputing some minor detail of history; the Holocaust is so huge, and the evidence so utterly overwhelming that the case really is closed to any competent, sane historical mind.

In other words, Holocaust Denial is a scholarly deal-breaker. If an alleged historian holds to it, then you can be reasonably sure they are probably an incompetent, racist headcase -- three conditions which have implications far beyond their reading of German history between 1933 and 1945. Now, the First Amendement guarantees the right to speech that is incompetent, racist and looney; but it does not require that anyone else has to take it seriously. What I find so very disturbing that, given RJR's attitude to the Holocaust, anybody would give him the time of day on any aspect of history -- seems rather like taking advice on global circumnavigation from a member of the Flat Earth Society. Yet the man appears to enjoy authority as a `historian' among certain Christian groups. Is it too cynical to regard some such as identifying Christian orthodoxy less with the great creeds of the faith and more with hating the right (i.e., the left) people?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Historical Body counts

another grim body count page.

Book report - The Mongols

no link for this old book, The Mongols by E. D. Phillips, 1969, Frederick A. Praeger Publishers, New York

after reading about Ivan the Terrible, i had to learn more about the Tatars, or Tatars, he was constantly worried about, remnants of the Golden Horde, the Mongol army that could have made it to the Atlantic Ocean if not for the inconveniently timed death of Ogedei, Genghis Khan's son and successor, which required the generals to return and accept the next Khan.
discipline was strict in Genghis's armies. death was the usual punishment for infractions. technology played a large role in Genghis's sieges. fear and fairness were also helpful. cities that surrendered were only subjected to heavy taxation. cities that didn't were exterminated. the Mongol army perhaps killed as many people as all of WW2, but over a hundred years, anywhere between 30 and 60 million deaths. The army was guilty of some horrific devastations though.

Consider the Seige of Baghdad.

The Caliph's army under Fath--ad-Din ibn Kerr, which had been on the east bank of the Tigris, crossed it to meet Baiju and Boge Timur. The Mongols destroyed a dam and flooded the plain behind their enemy. They then attacked the Caliph's troops and routed them, leaving a hundred and twenty thousand killed and more drowned in the mud. While the 'litle dewatdar' with a few men escaped to Baghdad, Baiju's men reached the western suburbs and Hulegu and Ketboge completed the encirclement from the east by the beginning of 1258.
Within a trenched and walled ring the Mongols besieged Baghdad without respite until the breached the eastern wall by the Persian Tower. The Caliph's envoys were turned back and for six days the attack was pressed with stones from the mountains and sawn-off palm-trunks as missiles. Arrows were shot over the wall with messages offering to spare all who had not taken up arms. When the Persian Tower collapsed, the Mongols carried the rampart by storm, occupied the whole of the eastern city, and caught those who tried to escape by boat. Seeing the Mongols on top of the walls, the Caliph surrendered. His officers and soldiers were killed, and eight hundred thousand of the people, who came out to be counted, were massacred. The Caliph was forced to reveal the wealth accumulated in five centuries, which was piled round Hulegu's tent, and was finally trampled to death under the hoofs of horses. (p. 90)

But this isn't an isolated example. Genghis himself put down an uprising in a silk road oasis city in modern day Turkmenistan called Merv. After it surrendered to a siege 1.5 million were killed. the year before, another rich trading city, Urgench, was sacked and each soldier was ordered to kill 24 citizens. Hopefully, not all 50,000 soldiers were involved as this would make 1.2 million killed. This action was partly taken as a result of infighting among Genghis's general sons, not a military necessity. Genghis also destroyed the wealth silk road Afghanistan city of Balkh.
A large and prosperous city of mud brick some three square miles in area, it held perhaps 200,000 persons. It was surrounded by mud-brick walls pierced by seven gates. A splendid Friday Mosque occupied the center, and many more mosques were scattered among the dwellings. The fire temple in the suburbs, which Xuanzang had admired when it was a Buddhist monastery, was still noteworthy. The city was home, not only to Persians and Turks but also to communities of Jews and Indian traders. It nourished poets and scholars, lawyers and even geographers and astronomers. But peace was a sometime thing; even when Balkh came under Seljuk rule for over a century, the nomads were never far away. Catastrophe struck in 1220, when Ghengis Khan chose to make an example of Balkh, perhaps as punishment for an uprising. One hundred thousand Mongol horsemen embarked on an orgy of slaughter and destruction that left nothing standing; a few weeks later they returned to pick off the survivors of the carnage. Balkh remained in ruins for a century, and ws so described by Marco Polo (1275)...

Genghis's empire is the largest land based in human history. He conquered China to Poland and Hungary. His heir, Guyuk, lectured Christian missionaries sent from the worried Pope, that he was on a mission from God and only God could stop him. He told the Pope's emissary
Furthermore, you have written to me these words "You have atacked all the territories of the Magyars and Christians, at which I am astonished. Tell me, what was their crime?" These your words we likewise cannot understand. Chingis [Genghis] Khan and Ogodei Khan both sent the Command of Heaven to make it known. But those whom you name would not believed the Command of Heaven. Those of whom you speak formed a great plan: they shoed themselves presumptuous and slew our envoys. Therefore in these territories it is the everlasting Heaven which has slain and annihilated these men. If not by the Command of Heaven, how can anyone conquer of slay out of his own strength?
And when you say: "I am a Christian, I pray to God. I arraign and despise others," how do you know whom God absolves and to whom He allows His grace? How can you know it, that you speak such words?
Thanks be to the power of the Everlasting Heaven, all lands have been given to us from sunrise to sunset. How could anyone act otherwise than according to the Command of Heaven? Now you must say with upright heart: We will be your subjects and will place our powers at your disposal. You in person at the head of the monarchs, all of you without exception, must come to tender us service and pay us homage: then only will we recognize your submission. But if you do not obey the Command of Heaven and run counter to our orders, we shall know that you are our foe. That is what we have to tell you. If you fail to act in accordance with it, how can we foresee what will happen to you? Heaven alone knows.

The Pope approached the Khan with demands instead of humble greetings. The Mongol empire had given wide latitude to the Nestorian Christians, believers who had been anathematized by Rome 800 years previously. Ironically, Nestorian missionaries, who had brought the gospel all the way to Korea, China, and Mongolia, had a greater worldwide influence in the world wide Mongol empire than the Catholic and Orthodox churches who couldn't resist it. Without a political empire to protect, the Nestorians had been through many regime changes and were able to continue under the Khans, whereas the Catholic church had alot more at risk and could not remain under the Khans' radar.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

smart mom is cooking

superwoman homeschools 3 and finds time to make for others chicken pot pie with home-made crusts

Who is Jesus? Why Christmas?

who is this baby, whose birth we celebrate? in his own words...

John 6:51:"I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever;"

John 8:23: And He said to them, "You are from beneath; I AM from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.

John 8:12: Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I AM the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life."

John 10:9: "I AM the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture."

John 10:11: "I AM the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.

John 10:36: "do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God'?

John 11:25: Jesus said to her, "I AM the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.

John 14:6: Jesus said to him, "I AM the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

John 15:1: "I AM the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.

John 19:2: Therefore the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, "Do not write, 'The King of the Jews,' but, 'He said, "I am the King of the Jews."'"

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

an apology for a large church

Tim Keller is not sorry for his large church in NYC, but he helps explain how size influences emphases. part 1 and part 2

Tim Keller preaches on hell

i think this is a good backdoor answer to the question of those who haven't heard.

"The universal religion of humankind is: We develop a good record and give it to God, and then he owes us. The gospel is: God develops a good record and gives it to us, then we owe him (Rom. 1:17). In short, to say a good person, not just Christians, can find God is to say good works are enough to find God.

"You can believe that faith in Christ is not necessary or you can believe that we are saved by grace, but you cannot believe in both at once.

"So the apparently inclusive approach is really quite exclusive. It says, 'The good people can find God, and the bad people do not.'

"But what about us moral failures? We are excluded.

"The gospel says, 'The people who know they aren't good can find God, and the people who think they are good do not.'

"Then what about non-Christians, all of whom must, by definition, believe their moral efforts help them reach God? They are excluded.

"So both approaches are exclusive, but the gospel's is the more inclusive exclusivity. It says joyfully, 'It doesn't matter who you are or what you've done. It doesn't matter if you've been at the gates of hell. You can be welcomed and embraced fully and instantly through Christ.' "

Dangers of being a Christian in rural India

excerpted from a Compass News article:

Persecution affects both rural and urban populations, but Christians living in villages suffer more due to the practice of sharing common facilities and the presence of hierarchical religious and caste communities within the isolated settlements.

Most of India’s Christians live in rural areas. According to India’s 2001 Census, Christians make up 2.3 percent of the 1 billion-plus population, or 24 million people. Of these, almost 16 million live in rural areas. Most of the rural Christians are Dalits (the lowest level of the Hindu caste system, formerly known as “untouchables”), or from tribal backgrounds.

In addition to violent attacks launched and incited by Hindu extremists, rural Christians face denial of the use of common facilities like ponds, wells, grazing ground for cattle, schools and cremation grounds. At times they are also treated as social outcasts because of their faith in Christ. Villagers sometimes rape Christian women as a means of intimidation, but because of the shame associated with rape, few of these incidents are reported.

Villages in India are governed by village headmen, or mukhiyas, who preside over village courts known as panchayats. The panchayats are locally elected bodies supported by the Indian government and generally consist of “high caste” men.

As an unwritten code of conduct, villagers are expected to approach panchayats rather than the police or a court of law to resolve disputes or report criminal acts. When Christians approach such a body, they do not get justice due to their relatively lower economic and social status.

In fact, panchayats often pressure families that convert to forsake Christianity. If they refuse to do so, Hindu villagers ostracize and sometimes forcibly expel them from the village.

Most Indian villages choose collective deities from the pantheon of Hindu gods and goddesses and see these deities as their protectors. They fear disaster if the village fails to worship them adequately. When a Christian family abstains from these rituals, fellow villagers grow hostile, fearing the anger of the gods may fall on the village as a whole.

Villagers also gather together for Hindu festivals such as Holi (during which people play water games and consume home-brewed alcohol) and Diwali (celebrated with lights and firecrackers and worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of money). The village as a whole is offended when Christians do not participate in these festivals.

Social alienation also affects the economic condition of Christian families. Rural villages have limited resources and are often self-sufficient. Villagers depend on each other for assistance in raising and harvesting crops or taking care of livestock; without this help, families struggle to survive financially.

Monday, December 18, 2006


a wiki article
Democide is defined as "The murder of any person or people by a government, including genocide, politicide, and mass murder."
Communism is well represented as well as the the same states before communism, Russia, Mongolia, and China.
The americas' treatment of African slaves and natives could equal 30mm people.

what's with the Holocaust deniers?

Iran recently hosted a conference for Holocaust deniers. who would attend such a thing? David Duke is one. His racism is an easy motive for him. The same for the president of Iran. What is so powerful about racism? Hate definitely unites easily and blinds as well.
the Nizkor Project asks, "Given the evidence ... why do people deny the Holocaust?"

The wiki article on Holocaust Deniers states
Though they do not use the term revisionism, historians do continue to study and revise opinions on aspects of the Holocaust, though no reputable historian has challenged the basic scale and outlines of the event. In the words of historian Donald Niewyk from Southern Methodist University: "With the main features of the Holocaust clearly visible to all but the willfully blind, historians have turned their attention to aspects of the story for which the evidence is incomplete or ambiguous. These are not minor matters by any means, but turn on such issues as Hitler's role in the event, Jewish responses to persecution, and reactions by onlookers both inside and outside Nazi-controlled Europe."

as with most conspiracy theories, the effort to set up the conspiracy would be greater than the actual event occurring. from the same Wiki article
Historical proof for the Holocaust, such as maps and documents or buildings claimed to be gas chambers, have been deliberately falsified, misinterpreted, misrepresented, or reconstructed. For example, documents contain grammatical errors which only non-native German speakers would make; photographs of generic death and destruction are labeled Nazi atrocities.

another helpful resource is called answers to the 66 questions of the HD's

documenting the USSR

read about this project in my local paper, which reports

Anti-Communists during the Cold War, trying to rally the West against Moscow, long accused the Soviets of such outrages. But with the Soviet Union largely closed to outsiders, foreign policy conservatives and military hawks were forced to rely on testimony from dissidents and defectors.

Brent's 20-book project, “The Annals of Communism,” provides new and vivid details from documents that have been mined by hundreds of his researchers over the years, combing Soviet archives since the collapse of the totalitarian state in 1991.

It documents Soviet espionage in the United States, efforts by the Soviets to manipulate the Spanish Civil War and a history of the Gulag slave labor camps.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

book reports: ivan and stalin biographies

the new book section of the library beckons me like the sirens and i fell for a newer Stalin biography called Stalin the Court of the Red Tsar by Simon Sebag Montefiore who noted that the widely read Stalin found some inspiration from Ivan the Terrible.
so after reading Stalin i found a 1975 biography by Robert Payne and Nikita Romanoff called Ivan the Terrible.

after reading both biographies, i believe it impossible to write about one without looking over the shoulder at the other. both had wives die young, Stalin's by suicide, and both men were predictably damaged. both were ready to quit. regarding Ivan's wife
She died at the wrong time and in the wrong way...Grief, which has struck him so hard, loosened the bonds. Henceforth violence became a way of life; murder was his companion; to see the dead around him was his solace...His character seemed to change overnight. The man who had been deeply religious and conscientious in his duties, carefully weighing the advice of his Chosen Council, acting for ht most part mildly and judicially, rarely giving way to the cruelty that lay just below the surface, suddenly showed himself to be a harsh and tyrannical voluptuary. He lived riotously, drank heavily, surrounded himself with peculators, murderers, thieves, drunkards, and perverts, criminals who had no difficulty recognizing the latent criminality in him. Violent men urged him to hitherto unimaginable feats of violence. ..Like many men who appear to be outwardly bold and fearless, he was in fact very timid, easily terrified, likely to strike out at imagined enemies, at the mercy of uncontrollable fears. What he regarded as his greatest strength - his relentless and passionate determination to rid the world of evil- was in fact his greatest weakness, for he saw evil everywhere, and so there grew in him a monstrous appetite for murder. If necessary, he would destroy all Russia o save tis soul. He succeeded in reducing Russia to a state of timidity, from which it never completely recovered. (pp. 198-199, Ivan)

What would a society look like if run by paranoiacs? Russia, unfortunately, provides a couple examples. It seems that once the killing starts, how can it stop? Isn't the killer rightly deserving of vengeance. The threats, imagined or real, never cease, and the subsequent warping of the soul feeds on itself like a nuclear reaction gone critical.
...there were few satisfactions in living. But he could give himself up to cruelties that excite the nerves and discover strange consolations in the contemplation of people dying in agony. This was the drug he employed to ease the pain of living, and it was provided in abundance by the oprichniki. Terror became his entertainment, and during the following years he destroyed people more ruthlessly and in greater numbers than ever before.
He now stood so far above the laws that it was as though the law had no existence, and so far above the flesh that it was as though flesh and its sorrows had no existence. Torture, which had always fascinated him, now obsessed him. He was continually inventing new and more excruciating forms of torture, while he filled the emptiness of his live with imaginary enemies, imaginary plots, imaginary crimes.
In later years, he would say that the oprichniki had misled him and that he was as much their victim as the innocent people they tortured to death. He claimed he never really ordered those innumerable executions and he would pretend to a grief he had never felt when he wrote to the monasteries asking the monks to pray for the souls of the dead. Finally he would turn against the oprichniki and destroy them as calmly and mechanically as he had destroyed the poor devils who were tortured to death in the cellars of the Oprichina Palace. He had no mercy for anyone, and this total absence of mercy was only another sign of his alienation from the world.
In time a myth grew up that Ivan was pursuing a carefully formulated social and political policy to bring about the annihilation of the boyar class. It was a myth that gave some comfort to Stalin, who was engaged in liquidating the kulaks, the more prosperous peasants who rejected
the idea of working in the collective farms...But in fact Ivan had no understanding of the social forces at work; he destroyed blindly, impassively, scarcely caring who was destroyed, like a maniac. (p.249, Ivan)

Admitting error, was admitting weakness, and admitting weakness meant admitting fallibility, which destabilized support. Stalin's collective farms weren't producing, but the problem, in his mind, couldn't be his idea, it had to be the "wreckers," those saboteurs, who wanted the revolution to fail. It was a convenient label to apply to those who must have hindered his successful ideas, and it was a label that facilitated rounds of terror. Both Tsars employed terror repeatedly. Terror was the method that forced reality to conform to their perception of it. almost randomly, wreckers were identified, arrested and tortured until they confessed to their crimes and implicated their accomplices. For Stalin, terror enabled famine to eventually end, because he no longer had to feed millions of dead wreckers. Terror enabled industrial production because wreckers who weren't tortured to death were worked to death in the gulags only being paid meager starvation rations.

Stalin started out as a seminarian. He dropped out and embraced the atheism of communism. Ivan remained deeply religious his entire life, despite being responsible for perhaps 200,000 deaths?
In an age of religious fervor Ivan was one of the most deeply religious men. He was exuberant in his prayers and utterly devoted to Christ, the Virgin, and his favorite saints. He spent long hours in contemplation of the holy icons, attended al the services of the Orthodox Church, and was continually engaging in theological arguments with the priests attached to his court. When he removed the church bells, icons, and carve doorways from Pskov and Novgorod, and took them into his private keeping in Alexandrova Sloboda, hi appears to have genuinely believed that he had increased his store of divinity. They belonged to him by right of conquest; the question of his right of possession was never raised. Was he not God's anointed, the sole possessor of the Russian land? (p.292, Ivan)

Ivan reminded me of the story of wicked king Ahab of Jewish history, Jezebel's husband. Ahab repented before God at the end of his life, and God spared his judgement on Ahab. Ivan seemed to have regretted all his murders and ordered drawn up a list of all his victims in order that the monks could offer prayers for them. Stalin wasn't without religious devotion, it just wasn't to a higher power, but a higher social order. It seems he was genuinely convinced of the rightness of the "revolution," even though he had to kill millions the revolution was supposed to liberate from the capitalist system.

for whatever cosmic reason, both despots were able to die naturally, in old age, leaving Russia in shambles. what is there to learn from these regents? i think it proves that the human heart is desperately wicked, that men are not inherently good. possessing absolute power is like returning to the garden of eden. these autocrats could either choose restraint or unfettered animal passion. passion is our natural condition. choosing the spiritual when every sense can be tickled in the natural is impossible. as Conrad concludes in The Heart of Darkness, "The horror! The horror!" (p.147)

Letter to a scientologist 3

You made the mistake of forcing me to do research. In fairness I started at your church’s FAQ. It was nice, tedious, and, in some parts, offensive, i.e. using the cross of Christ as your religious symbol and depriving poor people of quality “auditing” (if you can’t afford the “donation” an auditor in training will practice on you). Then I started reading the critics. So I’m outraged. And I’m starting to understand why you have such difficulty with the historicity of the Bible. It doesn’t matter how many witnesses there are to an event, if it threatens Co$ disbelieve it. 500 witnesses to Christ’s resurrection isn’t enough. Ex-member testimony isn’t enough. FACTnet estimates 90% of people who start in Co$ leave. How do you spin that? And if the Sea Org isn’t the closest thing to Faust’s bargain I don’t know what is. A billion year promise to Co$ - sounds like hell to me.

There is a difference between the sins of the church and the sins of Co$. When parts of the church are in sin other parts criticize it, as often happens on this list. We exchange info on groups in the church that do not represent Jesus as well as those outside of our tent who hurt people. The cool thing about Jesus is he made individual access to God possible and equips his followers with his Spirit to contribute to the mission, sometimes correctively, sometimes evangelistically, sometimes for fortification. A human institution, such as Co$ and sometimes within the church needs lots of controls to maintain appearances. The Bible doesn’t have to be rewritten every few years. Human institutions that try to be religious have to rewrite embarrassing things, delete them and claim they were never written or hide them so editing can continue without impunity. Did you ever read Orwell’s 1984?

Jesus offers it all with a method too. It’s an anti-method actually. Give up. Surrender. Let him take care of it all. He does surgery a bit at a time, sometimes you notice it sometimes you don’t. Sometimes heroin addicts are delivered at that moment and some struggle the rest of their lives. The hierarchy is Jesus and us. All other relationships are horizontal. Money is voluntary. It’s an expression of faith. It benefits the giver, whenever the giver is ready to take the risk. And there are no requirements where to give- your church, a ministry that does what you’d like to do, a poor family down the street. You can even get first class clergy services for free. God pays for everything he’s into. There are so many stories of checks showing up in the mail and groceries appearing on the doorstep. The miracles God does, his supernatural interventions in our lives, make you weep sometimes. And it’s all motivated by love, his for us and ours for his and each other. So money doesn’t matter nor does position. The Bible makes sure the equanimity is not forgotten. It is the humble who are honorable. Now when things get out of whack the Spirit makes sure it is addressed, remember this list. We all come from different flavors of Christ, or restaurants, good food but flavored differently, but if there is a dangerous serving, it is pointed out to everyone else as a warning. Knowledge is the weapon but spiritual enforcement is left to God. Let’s contrast with Co$.

Yessir, LRH made his million bucks. You can do it too. First claim anyone can join and they don’t have to stop doing or believing what they already believe. Offer them the world, or tell them you have a bridge to sell. Give away freebies. Crack dealers where I live do this too you know. Free personality tests, free intro to Co$. Parade around a few high profile trophies. Make correlations to all member successes. Then it’s time for the bait and switch. Say, “this can all be yours for a few bucks, and what’s a few bucks in light of eternity?” but after that course point out that, well, of course you aren’t at nirvana yet, but for a few more bucks we can get you closer. And as you dangle that carrot slowly introduce the stick. It sounds like after that first bait and switch people move out, thank God for the internet. But for some who remain the stick becomes more important than the carrot. For some, though, they never notice the stick. Gee, for anyone who shells out cash to hold tin cans, this may not be surprising. But if they keep coming up with the dough you gotta keep making more obstacles for them to overcome. So the levels keep coming. Of course LRH had to demonize psychology, because that explains the hypnotic states for suggestion of past lives and exteriorization. Suggestions can come from demons too. So can religions.

I pray God turns your baloney detectors back on. Others into it as far as you have had them kick started by too much use of the stick before they saw reality. After reading all this stuff on Co$ I now understand your sensitivities to my closing. It’s the knowable truth though.

Watch out for those pickpockets…

Letter to a scientologist 2

my perspective is that an investigator of a belief system should know the "dirty parts" or have
easy access to them. how else do you weed out crazy stuff a priori? i'm also appreciating the approach of "if it works, then perhaps the dirty stuff isn't that hard to swallow" and may even be true. alot of people experience this in non-religious situations. but this set up in abusive situations is standard. it's called partial reinforcement. the balance of positive reinforcement to negative tips over time to alot bad and little good. having my own abusive religious experience, i have a great appreciation for the baloney detector we all come with. and i encourage people to listen to their baloney detector if they don't have a theological or philosophical grid to evaluate religious claims. so my baloney detector would say to CoS, secret levels? incorrect history? big dollars? unverified claims? can never read all this stuff in my lifetime? it may work, but probably not by the mechanism they propose.

for example, windows runs on top of dos. so if dos is the ultimate truth then pursuing windows misses the point. windows looks like the truth but it's really dos.

there may be results with scientology but there are proposed alternative mechanisms to explain these. from my perspective lrh found windows, if anything, and not dos. how do you determine if someone's claims are ultimately true or not? aren't people who have benefited from electro-shock therapy considered by scientologists deceived? that's an a priori judgement. it worked for them. it's true for them. don't you claim a higher reality by considering their treatment a sham? how do you justify a partial utilitarian philosophy?

letter to an atheist

regarding comparative religions, or spiritual tour guide company evaluations, I hope your taste testing is fruitful. I hope you can whittle down your choices a priori since there are too many to test. Unfortunately, we all can’t be true. Actually, Scientology believes my experience is tied to a movie I had to watch under duress 50 million years ago. I think they may be victims of the power of suggestion, psychologically and/or spiritually, in this present time. I’m sure my spiritual experience conforms to the ultimate reality and I think there is enough data to verify that. Unfortunately, whichever you choose involves faith. An atheist has faith that he can prove a negative, “there is no God”, or an agnostic has faith that the question, “is there a God?” is unanswerable. I’m glad God has led you to this stage of investigation. I hope that soon you will say “I do” to God, the Creator. Faith is like getting married. Not knowing everything about a potential spouse, but knowing enough to satisfy your hope for life long love, people get married. Some prefer to live together to get more data, well that’s what they say, but they aren’t married till they take the step of faith and say “I do” in front of witnesses. By the way, there is no common-law marriage with Jesus.

no anonymous comments

i've seen one blogger state that since he isn't anonymous neither will he publish any anonymous comments. i like that. so no anonymous comments. thanks

abuse and your faith

abuse is not only found outside the church. its in the church too and needs to be exposed to the light. thanks to Scot McKnight for the link.

cannonball baptism

having fun in the baptism pool

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Christians in Morocco

from Yahoo News

RABAT (AFP) - They might have Islamic names like Mohammed or Ali, but every Sunday these Moroccan converts to Christianity go discreetly to "church" -- to the ire of Islamic militants and under the suspicious eye of police.

"There are about a thousand of us in around 50 independent churches across the big cities of the kingdom," explained Abdelhalim, who coordinates these evangelical Protestant groups in Morocco.

"As we are tolerated, but not recognized (by the state) we must, for security reasons, conduct ourselves as a clandestine organisation," said the 57-year-old, who preferred to use a pseudonym.

"As soon as a church has 20 worshippers it splits in two," said Abdelhalim, a doctor who converted to Christianity 16 years ago when he was living abroad.

Islam is the state religion in Morocco, a country of 30 million people that counts only 5,000 Jews and 1,000 Christians, according to figures given by the two groupings.

Although you cannot be sentenced if you convert to Christianity, it is illegal to proselytize under Moroccan law.

And while official Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant churches are recognized by Morocco, they are only for foreigners living in the country. Moroccan Christians have no right to pray in these churches.

However when Abdelhalim returned home seven years ago, he said he was astonished by the growing number of converts to Christianity.

"At the beginning of the 1990s there were 400 of us, four years ago around 700 and today more than 1,000," he said.

Most of the converts belong to the middle classes and work in the private sector or as engineers. But these new evangelical Christians also count among their numbers craftsmen, housewives, students and young unemployed people.

Christianity was established in North Africa in the third century AD but was supplanted by Islam in the seventh century. In the early 1990s, Christianity started to get a new foothold when foreign missionaries passed on the word to Moroccans.

As for Morocco's main cities, seven of these "free churches" -- not linked to any international Protestant church -- are in Marrakesh, six in Casablanca, five in Rabat and even one in El Ayoun, the regional capital of the western Sahara.

"Television and the Internet are very efficient methods and in our church a soldier became Christian through the Al Hayat channel," said 30-year-old Youssef, who also preferred to use a pseudonym.

"For many of us, Islam is perceived as a social straitjacket and not as a real faith, and Christianity as a religion of tolerance and love," said the businessman, who converted at the age of 19 and was later followed by his family...

sad news on the stem cell front

noted at WMB
The BBC is reporting that evidence it has obtained suggests that healthy newborn babies may have been killed in the Ukraine to feed a flourishing international trade in stem cells.

more alternative construction options

thermal mass is a passive way to stabilize temperatures. that's why a stone fireplace stays warm long after the fire has turned to embers. thermal mass is also why radiant floors are often under poured concrete floors, as the cement will slowly release the heat. this product called SCIPs has a foam or straw core encased in wire mesh with shotcrete sprayed on either side. so its an engineered version of a strawbale home. kind of neat.
green sandwich: article
tridpanel: article
solarcrete: article
sipcrete :article
thermomass: blog
i found one company that precasts all this stuff, csips, called Dukane
i don't know if this is pre-made or not Dow TMass: article

UPDATE: got an email from Dow that they don't make it anymore. found out SCIPs are better for warm climates. ICF is better for colder climates.

i like the concept of radiant heat floors. usually the heat comes from water circulating under the floor. but there's this neat thing called the air floor. it circulates warm air in the heating season and cool air in the cooling season.

UPDATE: similar product but closed loop, called Legalett

Friday, December 15, 2006

letter to a scientologist - no.1

i belong to a public apologetics e-group that includes Scientologists as readers/commenters. back in 1999 i started some long dialogs with them. for me, finding these old emails is like finding old archaeological texts. they are somewhat piecemeal, but i think they were and still are valuable. the specifics for any cult change, but the general appeal can be molded around any group.

a little glossary first
JC - Jesus Christ
LRH - L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology's founder
CoS - Church of Scientology

Certainly experience is valid to a degree, but I expect people on this apologetics list will be defending their faith with more ammo than experience. Experience for the Christian is the icing on the cake, strengthening the argument for Christ, but not a leg the argument rests on. Perhaps the thief on the cross didn't go on an apologetic analysis before asking Jesus to save him while hanging next to Jesus. He had an experience with Jesus that enabled the faith to believe in Jesus. The other guy hanging up there, however, had a different subjective experience and rejected the salvation of Jesus. Subjectively, neither you nor I can know which person made the right choice. Fortunately, you and I have time to analyze the data.

Can we agree that some experiential choices that superseded objective choices can and have occurred with devastating results: Heaven's Gate, and David Koresh, People's Temple and Jim Jones. There was abundant data that the leaders were wrong, objectively, but followers turned off their baloney detectors. They chose to believe the new "facts" that the leaders fed them. Not all false prophets slide all the way down this slippery slope to mass suicide, some angle towards mass poverty and minority prosperity, some prefer concentrated power. Unfortunately, followers often ignore the appeals to reason of friends and family. This forum is an appeal to reason. Therefore, I will appeal to reason by appearing to appeal to experience. You claim "If I experience spiritual change which expands my awareness to things greater than myself, how is that shallow?" Because this criteria does not allow you to evaluate any other belief system without releasing CoS and embracing the new faith. This turns out to be an impossible task. Some belief systems, including CoS, insist that a true understanding and experience takes many years. If you started religious experimentation at 16, and allowed 5 years for each religion, and you lived to 72, you could try 11 religions (unless one of them turned out to be a suicide cult). And what if in those 56 years more LRH's appear with "new" understandings. You can't keep up nor try them all out, perhaps not even afford them all.

You have 2 options then, rule out some beliefs a priori- but that involves objective reasoning, or appeal to authority, those who have gone before you. It seems you have chosen this 2nd option. LRH did some sampling, not enough years for each, AFAIK, if CoS was one of his samplings, and developed his own belief system based on some "new" insight, new "facts." It seems to me that you have decided to trust LRH, if not put faith in him, then faith in his analysis, analysis that would result in cries of "foul" if applied to CoS now. If your decision is based on an appeal to authority and an appeal to satisfactory results, correct me if I'm wrong here, then I want to introduce you to Jesus. His sayings and authoritative writings about him would hardly intimidate a disciple of LRH. They could probably fit in one of LRH's volumes. You are invited to compare the authority of JC to LRH. Compare the subjective experiences of Christians to Scientologists. Compare the unity of the message and scriptures and frequency of revision. Ask the source of truth to reveal himself to you. All the data is public for the Bible so the advantage is to the investigator of Christianity over the investigator of CoS.

was Jesus a Christian?

i'm continuing the dialog with Ben, pastor at St. Paul's near UConn.
Hi Ben,
thanks for replying. i did listen to your message, but i wasn't enlightened much more. sorry. i'm a better text learner than oral learner. so here's some text to dialog over, if you think it's beneficial and worth our time and your readers' time.
the American Heritage Dictionary defines Christian

1. Professing belief in Jesus as Christ or following the religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus.
2. Relating to or derived from Jesus or Jesus's teachings.
3. Manifesting the qualities or spirit of Jesus; Christlike.
4. Relating to or characteristic of Christianity or its adherents.
5. Showing a loving concern for others; humane.


1. One who professes belief in Jesus as Christ or follows the religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus.
2. One who lives according to the teachings of Jesus."

if we stick with the noun, only Jesus himself perfectly lived according to his own teachings (def. 2). to my ears, if someone asks if Jesus was a Christian, i'd say he was the perfect one. and all Christians hold him up as their perfect role model. however, unlike Jesus religious contemporaries who ignored hte message of grace in the rest of the OT and tried to be more Mosaic than Moses by their own efforts, Christians remain aware of their weakness and need for grace not only for themselves but also for each other and those God is drawing to himself. that means i still call Ted Haggard my brother, that means i still call my other friends who have professed faith but still sin sexually, hetero or homo, my brothers and sisters. but i also tell others who are not yet in the family, how to get in, through Jesus, and i give moeny to those who are doing the same in different parts of the world. because i want to call them brothers and sisters, co-heirs of the gift of God.
now that results, unfortunately, in being called exclusive, because i believe God has the audacity to proclaim one way, one truth, and one life, not unlike most other religions. in fact, right now as i type, i'm listening to Ravi Zacharias, on our church's radio station webcast, list how all these major faiths are exclusive. is this audacious claim dumb? it is if one rejects out of hand any source of information outside of our natural abilities, positivism, which itself is self-refuting. so it's fine by me to be called exclusive and dumb if i repeat Jesus' claims. he was accused of the same, in so many words. Christianity is my crutch but i realized i'm a cripple. and no other crutch can hold one up.
perhaps i am jumping the gun, but i'll state my position clearly on other religions and God's action through them. God's book tells us that His Spirit remains in the world as a restraint on our sinfulness. He does other things too, but that is one job, and when He departs, things will get really bad. i'm drawn to historical treatments on genocides and current human rights abuses and the inhumanity of man is terrifying. and Christians have their share of the blame, but as Ivan the Terrible (the Orthodox) had his 10,000, Stalin (the atheist) had his 10,000,000. but those religions that have encountered Christianity they've elevated their ethics, but religion alone is fatal by the good it does. it can elevate one's pride in self, the opposite of Christianity's proclamation. We are called to acknowledge our weakness and deadness and inability.
i've had friends in North Africe discuss with Muslims their religion and the Muslim will acknowledge its too hard, but they don't have anywhere to go from there except give up or try harder. they need Jesus, and sometimes he appears in dreams to them, but they still won't give in. the issue is pride, idolatry of the self.

sorry i've rambled so much. i'm trying to address the claim that God is bigger than Christianity. everyone he saves, he rescues from outside Christendom. so in that sense, yes he is bigger. but everyone he saves he brings into Christianity. another definition...


1. The Christian religion, founded on the life and teachings of Jesus.
2. Christians as a group; Christendom.
3. The state or fact of being a Christian.
4. pl. -ties. A particular form or sect of the Christian religion: the Christianities of antiquity."

Jesus is God. hence def. 1 indicates that God's religion is based on the life and teachings he modeled and spoke through Jesus.

so, i commented, because i think you cloud the waters too much when you tell someone that God is bigger than Godianity, and that Christ wasn't Christ-identified. it's like Nirvana lyrics, sounding profound but not making any sense. so i'm still not getting how you are helping those who who inquire.
God is good

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Is God bigger than Christianity?

Kind of a weird question from a pastor. So i posted a comment but it hasn't been approved so i'll share it here. it really helps to read the article first though.
fwiw, the church describes itself as,

"St. Paul's Collegiate Church is a post-denominational community church in Storrs, CT, that was planted and officially launched in February 2005.
There are over 18,000 college students and 20-somethings living in the Storrs-Mansfield community, home to the main campus of the University of Connecticut. Less than five percent of this group attends a local church."

i wrote

i'm a UConn IVCF alumnus, '92, and i was excited to see somemore outreach at UConn, including this church. IVCF actually let me come back and give a talk last winter. it's at my blog in series called things i learned in college. but that's my introduction. i've been following your blog for awhile, but this is the first one that makes me want to comment.

i think it's misleading to say Jesus wasn't a Christian. a Christian is a Christ-one. also, he's God, so he didn't need anyone to die for his sins.

i'm not sure how to understand the rhetorical question in the first paragraph. if He created the religious system that, alone, enables eternal life with Him, then it's a false statement to say we put Him in it. and i'm not saying that one denomination or post-denomination is exclusively perfect. however, those who reject Jesus, or only like Him or admire Him, but refuse to surrender to Him, those have not embraced the system God wrote about.
not that God doesn't call them. i have missionary friends who know of Muslims who have dreamed of Jesus but will not convert, just like many around Jesus when he walked with us.
so what do you mean that God is bigger than Christianity?

nose cutting and face saving

very funny article of environmentalism run amuck in Germany. the country needs power. but no nukes. ok wind mils. they require power lines. power lines are ugly. so they must be buried. which makes expensive wind energy more pricey and takes even longer to build them, so windmills have to be turned off because there aren't enough lines to carry all the juice. it gets better from there, or worse. anyway, in response to the rising prices, German households are firing up their wood and coal stoves which produce...pollution.

India: no church allowed

INDIA - On Sunday, December 5, police forced Pastor Jesurathinam and his congregation to stop their worship service in a church in Vellamody village, Kanya Kumari in Tamil Nadu.

Police were responding to the scene after about 200 Hindu extremist forces stormed the worship service. The Hindus, who held a two-hour demonstration inside the prayer hall, claimed a Hindu temple existed close to the prayer hall, therefore, the church should not be allowed to operate. .

Pray Christians in India continue to be a bold witness for Christ despite threats and attacks against them.

EO's top vids of '06

the Randoph band near the bottom and the treadmill ballet at the top are worth you time at the EO

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

India: Widow Immolation returns

Veritas Forum reports
"Widow-burning is making a comeback in parts of India. Aren't we all so excited that they're repudiating the legacy of British imperialism and returning to the happy practice of sati?"

raising a child with Down's Syndrome

more food for thought for those who prefer to kill these babies...
Bonnie writes
"Julana at Life in the Slow Lane writes Therapy notes 33: teaching, trusting. Julana has a son with Down’s syndrome and poignantly blogs vignettes from their lives."

Monday, December 11, 2006


I'm reading a biography of Ivan the Terrible, Tsar of Russia in the 16th century, contemporary of England's Queen Elizabeth. Stalin found much inspiration in his methods of governance, including mass executions, but excluding Ivan's adoration of the Russian Orthodox icons.

As someone raised in a low-Protestant tradition, icons and praying to saints was always foreign to me, and remains, unnecessary, if not distasteful to me still. However, both the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic branches of the church embrace icons, 2D for the East and 3D for the West. Why is that?
a wiki article states
In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, only flat images or bas relief images are used. They believe the first icons of Christ and the Virgin Mary to have been painted by St Luke. The Greeks, having a long, pagan tradition of statuary, found the sensual quality of three dimensional representations did more to glorify the human aspect of the flesh rather than the divine nature of the spirit and so prohibitions were created against statuary. The Romans, on the other hand, did not adopt these prohibitions and so we still have statuary among the Roman Catholics to this day. Because the Greeks rejected statuary, the Byzantine style of iconography was developed in which figures were stylized in a manner that emphasized their holiness rather than their humanity.
Who says local circumstances have no influence on theology?

What is the purpose of the icons and how does one interact with them? one site says
In the Orthodox Church, icons are sacred images painted on wood, carved in stone, molded in metal, sewn on cloth, or made in any suitable material, which conform to a canonical non-naturalistic style, and which are venerated by the faithful with bows, kisses, incense and lights, with the understanding that the icon itself is not worshipped, but the honor given it is transferred to Christ, the Mother of God, or to whatever saint is depicted thereon.

but the Protestant in me says, what about those Commandments forbidding the creation of images? the same site continues
In the New Testament, the Invisible, Indepictable God of the Old Testament became man of the Virgin Mary, and in the act of taking on our humanity, became depictable. Thus reason the holy fathers of the Seventh Universal Council (787 A.D.) in their defense of the Orthodox practice of the veneration of icons. For many years the church had been troubled over the use of images, wondering if, perhaps, it violated the commandment of the Old Testament. The Seventh Council put an end to all doubts, making it clear that by the venerating icons, we proclaim our faith in the true Incarnation of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament prohibition against images can no longer apply, since through the Incarnation, it had been cancelled by God Himself.
I am forced to admit, that most Protestant homes have pictures of Jesus and his disciples, perhaps a poster of the Last Supper, or even a child's Sunday school paper, or an illustrated Bible, without concern of violating God's command. But those same homes don't touch or kiss the pictures or pray before them. Even if no 2D images are found, perhaps a 3D cross is hanging somewhere. If this serves to stimulate thoughts of Christ's sacrifice and his work for our salvation, is this image causing one to forsake the 1st commandment? Is this much of a distinction?

Perhaps the right question concerns the issue of minimal Christianity and maximal Christianity. What is the minimum that a missionary needs to make a disciple? Can disciples be made by words alone, preferably memorized words of God's word? and do icons freeze someone or something that shouldn't be frozen. in america, African Americans have found objection to the white Jesus, and in response, some have crafted the black Jesus. Jesus said that whatever we do for the least among us, we do for him. Jesus identifies with the least. What if our depictions of the cross included a tortured child, or a raped woman, or a leprous man? Wouldn't those depictions make Jesus' point? According to Isaiah's prophecy in chapter 53, Jesus was nothing to look at. Should our mental images of him depend on who we think is one of the ugliest and least likely for us to befriend? after his resurrection he was often unrecognized. he didn't look like he used to. he was the firstfruits of that promised resurrection body.

i'm digressing. when we make disciples, we are showing people how to follow Jesus. so we read his words in the Bible, both Testaments. we talk to God, AKA pray. we pray for each other. and this is where praying to the saints comes in. as i understand it, the EO and RC understand the verse that says we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses to mean that those believers who have passed on before us, are still contemporaries, in a sense. thus, not only can you ask your incorporeal believing fellows to pray for you, but also those incorpreal. but, i wonder, once i leave this plane in my prayers, why stop at anyone below God, Jesus, who is the only mediator between the Father and myself?

i bring the good news to the disciple. the disciple's heart softens and God places in the disciple his Holy Spirit as a promise of eternal life. The Spirit is active and intelligent and interactive and brings about the progressive sanctification of the disciple. the disciple is the real icon, the real image-bearer of God. no one can improve on God's icons.

Curmudgeonly response to new atheists

Doug Groothius starts off...
1. These two books are offering nothing new by way of critiques of theism or specific religions. Christian philosophers and biblicla scholars have responded to all the charges before. What is different is their severe tone. Religion is not just wrong, but terribly dangerous. It should scarcely be tolerated. To demonstrate this, one must argue that a belief is both false and deleterious. That doubles the intellectual load--and produces a fair amount of bombast.

he indicates more posts to follow....

how to respond to sect interruptions at church

Andrew Jones had a warning about this German sect coming through disrupting services across his area and he was well prepared and dealt with them in the best way i can imagine. good work Andrew.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

new missions opportunities

one day the Freedom Ship will set sail with 30,000 people some day...

and the office, where i try to serve, work church

Today is International Human Rights Day

and it was conceived by Christians...

Approved by the U.N. General Assembly on December 10, 1948, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was, in one historian’s judgment, “largely identical” with the value system expressed in the Christian Democratic worldview. From its use of “laicized” language of Divine origin (such as the “inherent dignity” and “inalienable rights” of man) to the use of the term “natural” to define the family to the guarantee of a “right to life” to the affirmation of a family wage, the Universal Declaration might be seen as a great triumph of the new Christian Democratic worldview.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

more Christmas tree history

Christian History reports
...The Romans decked their homes with evergreen branches during the New Year, and ancient inhabitants of northern Europe cut evergreen trees—ancient symbols of life in the midst of winter—and planted them in boxes inside. Many early Christians, like Tertullian, were hostile to such practices.

But by the early Middle Ages, a legend had begun to circulate that when Christ was born in the dead of winter every tree throughout the world miraculously shook off its ice and snow and produced new shoots of green. At the same time, Christian missionaries preaching to Germanic and Slavic peoples were taking a more lenient approach to cultural practices. These missionaries believed that the Incarnation proclaimed Christ's lordship over those natural symbols that had previously been used for the worship of pagan gods. Not only individual human beings, but cultures, symbols, and traditions could be converted.

Of course, this did not mean that the worship of pagan gods themselves was tolerated. According to one legend, the 8th-century missionary Boniface, after cutting down an oak tree sacred to the pagan god Thor (and used for human sacrifice), pointed to a nearby fir tree as a symbol of the love and mercy of God....

Friday, December 08, 2006

Pearl Harbor

On this day 65 years ago, a date that "will live in infamy," the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, killing more than 2,000 U.S. servicemen. Survivors, many now well into their 80s and 90s, will gather most likely for the last time in Hawaii today to honor their fallen friends. "I suspect not many people have thought about this, but we're witnessing history," said Daniel Martinez, chief historian at the USS Arizona Memorial. "We are seeing the passing of a generation."

In light of today being the 65th Anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor, it seems apparent that many of the veterans who fought so hard for the world's freedom in the Second World War are nearing the end. In the past three years, both my own father and my wife's father who both served in the Pacific arena have gone to meet Jesus (and we miss them terribly). But for those who are still around, I want to express my own heartfelt thanks for the great sacrifices you and your comrades made in helping to preserve freedom of the world during those dark times.

Going to the chapel helps marriages

this may be the third time i've posted this info. going to church every week protects marriage from divorce. its not a guarantee, but it's alot like not smoking protects your lungs. the odds for your marriage increase if both are involved in the myth that Christians are as likely to divorce as non-Christians has been exposed. the interesting issue then is why are those self-identified, divorcing, non-churching folks calling themselves Christians?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Imam theater

regarding those American Imams removed from the plane...

Given that Islamic terrorists continue their obsession with turning airplanes into weapons of mass destruction, it is nothing short of obscene that these six religious leaders--fresh from attending a conference of the North American Imams Federation, featuring discussions on "Imams and Politics" and "Imams and the Media"--chose to turn that airport into a stage and that airplane into a prop in the service of their need for grievance theater. The reality is, these passengers endured a frightening 3 1/2-hour ordeal, which included a front-to-back sweep of the aircraft with a bomb-sniffing dog, in order to advance the provocative agenda of these imams in, of all the inappropriate places after 9/11, U.S. airports.

"Allahu Akbar" was just the opening act. After boarding, they did not take their assigned seats but dispersed to seats in the first row of first class, in the midcabin exit rows and in the rear--the exact configuration of the 9/11 execution teams. The head of the group, seated closest to the cockpit, and two others asked for a seatbelt extension, kept on board for obese people. A heavy metal buckle at the end of a long strap, it can easily be used as a lethal weapon. The three men rolled them up and placed them on the floor under their seats. And lest this entire incident be written off as simple cultural ignorance, a frightened Arabic-speaking passenger pulled aside a crew member and translated the imams' suspicious conversations, which included angry denunciations of Americans, furious grumblings about U.S. foreign policy, Osama Bin Laden and "killing Saddam."

Predictably, these imams and their attorneys now suggest that another passenger who penned a frantic note of warning and slipped it to a flight attendant was somehow a hysterical Islamophobe. Let us remember that but for their performance at the gate this passenger might never have noticed these men or their behavior on board, much less have the slightest clue as to their religion or political passions. Of course, that was the point of the shouting. According to the police report, yet another alarmed passenger who frequently travels to the Middle East described a conversation with one of the imams. The 31-year-old Egyptian expressed fundamentalist Muslim views, and stated the he would go to whatever measures necessary to obey all the tenets set out in the Koran.

Piper gives Wright the smackdown

John Piper asks how NT Wright can claim to be reading the same Bible

Wright’s statements are baffling in several ways. One way is that the Jews of Romans 2:17-24 do indeed claim to be successful moralists. They teach morality, but do not teach themselves (v. 21). They preach against stealing, but steal (v. 21). They oppose adultery, but commit adultery (v. 22). They denounce idolatry, but commit idolatry (v. 22). They boast in the law, but dishonor the law (v. 23). And in all this, they cause the Gentiles to blaspheme God (v. 24). How Wright can use this paragraph to distinguish moral boasting from racial boasting escapes me (as does the distinction itself).

Then, there is Wright’s affirmation of Sanders’ claim that the religion of the Pharisees was not the “religion of legalistic works-righteousness,” and that the “The Jew [of Jesus’ day] keeps the law out of gratitude, as the proper response to grace.” The only explanation I can find for such amazing statements is that the testimony of Jesus is denied or obscured. It is my impression that evangelicals enamored by the NPP have not reckoned seriously enough with the fact that the origination of the NPP seems to have taken place in the halls of such denial or obscuring.

When Jesus addressed the Jewish leaders of his day (Pharisees, lawyers, elders, Sadducees, chief priests), his resounding conclusion was they do not even know God. And, not knowing God, their lived-out religion (the kind Jesus is concerned with) is not “out of gratitude,” nor is it a “proper response to grace.”

VOM: Persecution news from India

latest updates on Christian persecution and human rights violations are updated here at Voice of the Martyrs.

WMB: Dem leaders won't lobby against fetal pain bill

World Mag reports
House Democratic leaders have said they won't lobby members of their caucus to vote against legislation that would inform women of the pain their baby would feel during an abortion, reports.Pro-life groups strongly support the [Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act] and hope it will result in women changing their minds about abortions. Abortion advocates are split, with leading abortion advocacy group NARAL not lobbying on it and Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion organizations strenuously opposing it....Nancy Pelosi is calling the vote a "vote of conscience" and will not speak on the bill or ask the Democratic caucus to oppose it. Pelosi and other Democratic leaders are citing NARAL's reluctance to oppose the bill as the primary reason for not urging party members to vote against it. Interesting. If I had time today, I'd go check out who's received how much money from whom. (A WMB blogger project?) Still, Democrats can afford to allow conscience votes in this case: Even the bill's sponsor, Rep. Chris Smith (R-New Jersey), said it will be tough to get the two-thirds support needed to pass it. A vote on the measure is expected today....