Monday, January 30, 2012

book report: Unbroken by Hillenbrand (2010)

I read Unbroken in two days. I will summarize the story, mention the author's effect on the story, and then discuss the effect on me the reader.

If I didn't have family responsibilities I would have finished it on Saturday, but this book was hard to put down. I really did not know what to expect. I knew it was a book about American soldiers in the Pacific Theater of World War 2 but that's all. I didn't realize it was primarily a biography of Louis Zamperini who went from a sickly child to being a troublemaker, to being a record setting miler who competed in the Berlin Olympics where he stole a Nazi flag, to being a bombadier on B-24's, to a cast away living on a raft with 3 guys for 45 days until he was captured by the Japanese and tortured and degraded by them for the next year to the point of death until the Japanese surrendered. But his life continued on an amazing journey after the war. He suffered from PTSD and became a horrible alcoholic who endangered his wife and baby until she moved out and filed for divorce. But before the divorce proceedings started she went to a Billy Graham revival in Los Angeles and got saved by Jesus. She convinced her husband, after telling him she was not going to divorce him anymore, to come with her to hear Graham. He did and left irritated. But somehow she got him to go one more time. He got up to leave during Graham's invitation to receive Jesus as savior and turned around and went to front to repent. He had promised God as he lay dying on a raft in the Pacific Ocean that if he lived he would serve God. He was completely changed that night. He dumped all his booze down the drain. His nightmares stopped. He was able to live again. He became an evangelist with Graham's organization for a while and was able to visit some of his prison guards, now prisoners themselves for their war crimes, and tell them the good news of Jesus and even personally forgive some of them.

The story is compelling enough but the details and the authority which Hillenbrand writes with magnify the power. Hillenbrand suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and spent seven years on this book, mostly from the confines of her house. She knows suffering and weakness and oppression beyond her control. I think she can speak with empathy about Louis's experiences with privation. In the linked interview above, she says she still calls on Louis for support in the struggles of her illness.

The facts she uncovered on the war were usually disturbing and gruesome.
"In 1943 in the Pacific Ocean Areas theater in which Phil’s crew served, for every plane lost in combat, some six planes were lost in accidents. Over time, combat took a greater toll, but combat losses never overtook noncombat losses." p.80

I vacillate on my agreement with Truman's atomic bombing of Japan. But when I learned about Japan's orders and practices of execution for all POW's about to be liberated, I lean to supporting the use of the bombs.
That August, the Japanese War Ministry would issue a clarification of this order, sending it to all POW camp commanders: At such time as the situation becomes urgent and it be extremely important, the POWs will be concentrated and confined in their present location and under heavy guard the preparation for the final disposition will be made … Whether they are destroyed individually or in groups, or however it is done, with mass bombing, poisonous smoke, poisons, drowning, decapitation, or what, dispose of them as the situation dictates … In any case it is the aim not to allow the escape of a single one, to annihilate them all, and not to leave any traces. p, 198
The bombings killed up to a quarter million people directly. I don't know if there is a moral calculus to see if the costs in lives balance, but, like I said, I'm now tipped somewhat in favor of Truman's decision. These two bombs alone don't equal the death brought by the Japanese on Nanking. Look at this example of their actions before the US got to the main island,
That same month, American forces turned on Saipan’s neighboring isle, Tinian, where the Japanese held five thousand Koreans, conscripted as laborers. Apparently afraid that the Koreans would join the enemy if the Americans invaded, the Japanese employed the kill-all policy. They murdered all five thousand Koreans. p. 223
The massacre would truly have been bloodthirsty. When Japan was successful, their treatment of slave labor was just as brutal. In its rampage over the east, Japan had brought atrocity and death on a scale that staggers the imagination. In the midst of it were the prisoners of war.
Japan held some 132,000 POWs from America, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Holland, and Australia. Of those, nearly 36,000 died, more than one in every four.* Americans fared particularly badly; of the 34,648 Americans held by Japan, 12,935—more than 37 percent—died.* By comparison, only 1 percent of Americans held by the Nazis and Italians died. Japan murdered thousands of POWs on death marches, and worked thousands of others to death in slavery, including some 16,000 POWs who died alongside as many as 100,000 Asian laborers forced to build the Burma-Siam Railway. p. 313
If the American invasion triggered the slaughter of POWs, then 132,000 would have died right away before the losses to the invading army. Just as radiation from the bombs caused long term illness and destruction to Japan, so did the inhuman treatment of POWs by the Japanese also create long term damage.
As bad as were the physical consequences of captivity, the emotional injuries were much more insidious, widespread, and enduring. In the first six postwar years, one of the most common diagnoses given to hospitalized former Pacific POWs was psychoneurosis. Nearly forty years after the war, more than 85 percent of former Pacific POWs in one study suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), characterized in part by flashbacks, anxiety, and nightmares. And in a 1987 study, eight in ten former Pacific POWs had “psychiatric impairment,” six in ten had anxiety disorders, more than one in four had PTSD, and nearly one in five was depressed. For some, there was only one way out: a 1970 study reported that former Pacific POWs committed suicide 30 percent more often than controls. p.346
It wasn't the effects of starvation that caused nightmares and self-destructive behaviors, but the effects of the dehumanization of POWs. For Louis Zamperini though, his secret was forgiveness,
In Sugamo Prison, as he was told of Watanabe’s fate, all Louie saw was a lost person, a life now beyond redemption. He felt something that he had never felt for his captor before. With a shiver of amazement, he realized that it was compassion. At that moment, something shifted sweetly inside him. It was forgiveness, beautiful and effortless and complete. For Louie Zamperini, the war was over. p. 379
Jesus speaks about this secret himself, as many others have. So I entered into the hatred of the POW's toward the Japanese guards but, with Louis was able to journey out of it into forgiveness for them and empathy for our soldiers.

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

another cheaper house idea

Here is my latest crazy idea. Well, it's an enhanced earlier idea.
I think thick walls are helpful no matter what. I think two different layers are important as well for airsealing as well as insulation and thermal mass. I'm also into quick and cheaper.
So here's my latest big idea, Hesco wall (R-house) filled with dirt with strawbales on the outside tied into the welded wire of the Hesco walls. The bales would not be load bearing, just insulating. They would be covered with plaster to protect them from the elements. If critters somehow got into them, the occupant, such as myself, wouldn't hear a thing through the 18" of fill in the Hesco wall. I'm also thinking of putting the window frames between the layers.

Unlike the EarthCo Megablock idea I wrote about last fall, the R-house does not require any particular mix of soil to stick together, in fact it can be filled wit
English: An Iraqi soldier uses a Caterpillar l...Image via Wikipedia
h sand, just like armies have been doing successfully in Iraq and Afghanistan for a decade now. The Hesco wall is simply wire mesh, a giant gabion, that holds a bag which holds the fill. Wires and pipes can be run inside the mesh before being filled. A bucket loader can fill up the gabions in a couple hours. The bales can be stacked in a day. The first coat of plaster can be sprayed on in a day or two, inside and out.

But, I just can't figure out a roof. Maybe a pole barn or Amish barn design. I'm not thinking two story but more a ranch with a loft. I do like the rounded walls in the picture above. And how to insulate it? I do like vault roofs as well. Owen Geiger recently posted pictures of two vaults involving earthbags at the earth bag building blog (which happens to be my favorite blog on the entire internet).

Are these two layers overkill? Not at the price for them. Maybe 3 foot think walls are not good for small building lots, but if I had the room, I'd go for it. If I had the room, I'd dig the dirt from the yard and make a pond. Three foot walls though. If one lives in a climate with extreme temperatures yet wants comfort without high technology, and the costs they entail, and if one wants to build without the concern of off-gassing from hi-tech products, and if one does not want the vulnerability to fire from timber posts, knowing that plastered bales won't burn, if one for some reason worries that meteors might strike their neighborhood regularly and in need of walls that resist bazooka missiles, how much better does this get?

I guess, if you are in hot places like deserts, one could just buy the Hesco bunker which comes with an aluminum roof, since you wouldn't need straw bale insulation.

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

book report: Keep Your Head Up, A. Bradley, ed. (2011)

When Crossway was offering books to bloggers for review, I was eager and tentative at the same time to take on this book, Keep Your Head Up: America's New Black Christian Leaders, Social Consciousness, and the Cosby Conversation, edited by Anthony B. Bradley, (2011). Would a middle class white reader such as myself have anything to gain from this conversation? It turns out, I do, partly because we are all believers in Christ, the writers and me, the reader. I highly recommend this to any believer, of any skin color, but I also can recommend this to those who don't share the faith of the contributors, because the church is essential to the discussion of African-American culture.

Each author uses the controversial book by Cosby and Poussaint Come on People: On the Path from Victims to Victors (2007) as their foil. Regardless of the validity of Cosby and Poussaint's statistics, which were questioned by another black intellectual, Michael Eric Dyson, the authors see these issues in need of spiritual answers, found only in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Dyson's input is acknowledged in the opening and closing chapters, but whether drop out rates are higher or equal to whites, they are still too high. So what are the solutions? There are ten essays with overlapping and non-exclusive proposals. I want to highlight some of them, based on the amount of my underlining.

The first chapter, by Vincent Bacote, PhD, finds a path in discovering the true history of African-Americans, also known as the archeaological approach. For African-Americans this is seen in efforts such as Black History Month (something I've blogged through a few times). But Bacote doesn't want the story to start in the 1600's, when Africans were being brought to North America. He wants the church to inform their congregations of their ancient history, recorded in Genesis, flowing through the gospels and culminating in John's Revelation. This is an important job for the church, as no other institution in our culture will do this. He then references a song from one of my favorite bands, "Our hope in the future directs our gaze to a day when we are free from our personal, relational, and societal dysfunction. An eschatological vision tells us where we are going. In the words of the band King's X, "we are finding who we are," and echo of 1 John 3:2..." (p. 37). In other words, Bacote wants the church to refocus on spiritual formation, catechesis.

In the second chapter, Bruce Fields, PhD, seeks a restoration of the value of the Biblical vision of family, a husband and a wife and their children. But so much needs to be overcome. "The foundations for the perpetuation of the family and the enhancement of its effectiveness in the African-American community must incorporate some historical reflections, beginning iwth an analysis of the devastating effects that slavery had on the black family in America... Families could be easily broken up, with family members being sold simply at the master's whim or because of economic necessities." (p. 43) He then proceeds to show the case for the Bibllical family model from Genesis, Deuteronomy, Proverbs, and Matthew. He declares, "Marriage is something with which God is intimately involved. Thus from a biblical narrative perspective marriage is far more than a mere sociocultural institution." (p. 53) Regarding to those who want to accomodate the reality of the culture and modify the ideal he warns, "our recent history has demonstrated that such a view has been devastating to the community." (p. 59) The experiments consistently fail, there is nothing new for family structures, only the debris of the self-destructive experiments.

In the third chaper, Pastor Howard Brown speaks to sexuality in the black community. He punctures the simplistic thought that marriage solves everything, "I do not believe marriage, in and of itself, is the answer to our sexual brokenness. Marriage itself can be only as healthy as the people it unites." (p. 66) But the adults are responsible in ending the mysoginistic cycle, "boys observe crass, even pornographic descriptions of male exploits. The mere description of such things with adolescent, teenage, or younger boys is a form of sexual abuse, causing much of the same damage as physical abuse. The images, deposited by men they trust, rip their way into the tender psyche of our boys, leaving deep scars that surface in their later sexuality." (p. 75) How is this cycle broken? "The church, the people God has called to Himself, remains the place where we practice the message of God's transforming grace in healing our sexual sin...In this place we call men to see and be seen by their Creator in ways powerfully intimate enough to call them out of a fallen image of sexuality into God-ordained manhood." (p. 78) He provides more details on how this can happen.

The fourth chapter written by Ralph Watkins, PhD, advises us to listen the secular prophets of Gangsta Rap. He focuses on Ice Cube and neglects Tupac (perhaps because Ice Cube is alive and still performing). He asks, "Can the church see what has caused and continues to cause the conditions under which poor inner-city African-Americans are laboring? If the church listened to hip-hop as a weeping prophet, how would that change its take on gangsta rap?" (p. 93) Specifically in regards to the youth he asks, "Do they feel heard in hip-hop? Do they feel loved by hip-hop? Has hip-hop become their pastor?" (p. 94) He provides a list of songs to find to begin to hear the prophetic voices crying out against the injustice that black culture suffers.

Pastor Lance Lewis, in chapter six, speaks of the community of the church. "Against the backdrop pf incredible dehumanization, the black church stood as the one foundational rock of black humanity. As my brother Carl Ellis Jr. says, 'You may have worked as a janitor and been called john and "boy" all week long, but in the church you were Deacon Jones.' Black people and the black community came to rely on the church as the main agent and actor in our ongoing quest to be simply regarded as people created in God's image and thus owed a measure of dignity, respect, kindness and justice." (p.120) But the American evangelical church has failed by tribalizing God and the solution is to cultivate a desire for a satisfaction greater than the American dream, and a devotion to a mission greater than lifting the the underclass into the middle class, and a determination to seek a place more secure and beautiful than a gated community.

In chaper eight, Pastor Anthony Carter calls the church to orthodoxy in word and deed. "The world is filled with institutions ready and able to feed the hungry...Yet there is only one place people can go to hear the message of redemption from sin and eternal life in Jesus Christ...When the church forfeits the uniqueness of the gospel and turns it into a social construction for social empowerment and political change, it ceases to be the eternal change agent for which Christ gave his life." (p. 160) If Pastor Carter preaches as well as he writes, it must be hard to leave his church every Sunday. "There are infinite ways to lose your soul. There is only one was to save it." (p. 161) He compares the church which focuses on the temporal to the minimization of the eternal to Esau, selling its "birthright for that which is fleeting and momentary." (p.165) He warns the church from allying themselves to any political party, hindering their freedom to speak prophetically and confidently from the word of God. "A society morally adrift...does not need a church unsure of what it believes." (p. 174)

In the last chapter Craig Mitchell, PhD, analyzes Michael Eric Dyson's criticism of Cosby and Poussaint, acknoeledging the many things Dyson gets right while also demolishing the dead ends of black liberation theology and it's partner communism.

The problems in the poorer African-American community are deep rooted, and the issues Cosby and Poussaint are the symptoms. The causes are systemic and in the hearts. The church can do the soul surgery, by pointing to Jesus and his words, and acting from that perspective. The book concludes with the contrast as presented by Tupac's "Keep Ya Head Up" and the motto of the African Methodist Episcopal Church: God our Father, Christ our Redeemer, The Holy Spirit our Comforter, Humankind our Family. There is hope, and it begins and ends in Jesus. This book points over and over to Jesus and is a powerful read, it only took me two days to finish it. Hopefully, the quotes prove that any Christian can be edified by this book and not just black believers.

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Building arched roof without concrete or steel

First of all, credit goes to Owen Geiger for finding this and putting it on his blog.
Timbrel vaults, aka Catalan vaults, seem like magic to me, method and history here. But they work really well in massive European cathedrals (and have lasted for 100s of years) as well as amazing
The World Famous Oyster BarImage by Skunkworks Photographic via Flickr
American urban buildings, like the NYC Gustavinos, built by Rafael Guastavino Moreno. Somehow thin tiles are layered into a vault and form gorgeous roofs that don't fall down. Great explanation and documentation here.

From Low-tech magazine,
Cohesive construction also proved to be very durable. During the restoration of Ellis Island in the 1980s, only 17 of almost 29,000 tiles had to be replaced. And of course, several churches are living proof of the achievements of timbrel vaulting in the Middle Ages.
English: Ellis island Immigration Museum hall,...Image via WikipediaHere is a link to a well-documented build in Ethiopia where the affordable materials at hand are dirt and rocks. Building the SUDU
It's also being done in South Africa.
Can this be used here? It's been done recently in England for a home.

Here is a short video showing the building of a demo roof and the effort to bring it to failure. Found here, warning, turn down the volume.
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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

book report: Terror by Night by Terry Caffey (2009)

I picked up Terror by Night by Terry Caffey in the Kindle store when it was available for free. It was set aside until I had an interlude between big books. This autobiography is hard to put down. Terry tells his story with all it's rawness. Although he is a Christian man, he admits to his suicidal tendencies after surviving the murders of his family and attempted murder on him as well. But there is something more amazing about this story. Terry learned forgiveness and tried it. He forgave the killers of his wife and sons. He forgave his daughter who was an accomplice if not the mastermind of the crime. As he sought God in the Bible in the months after the crime he started to ask himself, what would Jesus do in this situation? He concluded that Jesus would not ask for the death penalty. He also knew that Jesus had forgiven him of so many sins. He also knew that Jesus gave him all the room and time he needed to come to faith and repentance. Terry wanted to treat these murderers the same way Christ treated him. So he told the court that this Texan did not want the Texas judicial system to pursue the death penalty. He also continued to visit with his daughter and encourage her and affirm his love for her, even after he learned of her participation in the fratricide and matricide. The entire story is summarized in a video from his website by CBN, but the viewer won't have the benefit of becoming emotionally entangled in Terry's story without reading it. It is a modern version of the the biblical character Job.

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Theodicy solved in Cameron's movie Avatar (2009)

Last night I revisited Avatar, which I did not review favorably, with my teen aged son and sole control of the DVD remote so I could skip the alien intercourse scene. I still agree with all my earlier criticisms of the movie, however, I thought Cameron makes a case for the solution to the problem of evil made by philosophers such as Alvin Platinga.

The deity, Eywa, of the Na'vi planet, Pandora, is presumed to not take sides in the battle over the planet's resources and people and critters by the Na'vi, as explained by a native Na'vi (Neytiri) to the human avatar (Jake Sully) when he's praying at the tree which represents her seeking help in defeating the invading humans. So he rallies all the Na'vi tribes, formulates a last stand battle plan, and leads the Na'vi people into a massacre. But suddenly all the critters join in on the fight and turn the battle against the humans. Obviously, Eywa stepped in, and could have at any time, and really didn't need Sully's help or battle plan. But, by allowing the evil, a greater good could come from it. Things like unity and courage and valor. This is a form of the solution to the problem of evil described as evil providing a foil for good. The deity is still in control, but permits a lesser evil to provoke a greater good.
Jake's avatar and Neytiri. One of the inspirat...Image via Wikipedia
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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

more trash to buildings

Eichelberger Architects - Innovative Materials
Instead of buliding with hay bales, how about building with 6'x6'x3' bales of waste paper and waste plastic? I love this thinking, and I love thick walls covered with plaster. It might be the simplest way toward a nearly passive house. Doug Eichelberger is doing it to make barns, with trash, a baler, chicken wire, a forklift and plaster. I also like his gabion barn.

This video is from the link Trash Barn #3

update at Green Building Elements.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

a proposal to remove the word "marriage" from our legal discussions

I'm a conservative, born-again Christian.

I do believe the Bible forbids homosexual expression, and I've written many times about that contention, but I don't think those prohibitions can be legislated in a multi-cultural society such as America's.

I do think marriage, in the Bible is only between one man and one woman, in agreement with Jesus, see Mark 10:5-9. I have presented many explanations on this blog why gay marriage is not a Biblical option.

I think marriage, from it's earliest description is a concept from the Bible, see Genesis 2:22-25. I'm not aware of any earlier data, but am welcome to any if found. I believe marriage is fundamentally a religious word that no longer makes sense in our more religiously diverse culture.

I live in the United States of America that believes in a separation of church and state, but that should not mean a dismissal of the population's religious concerns. Those of us who are religiously conservative object to calling a non-heterosexual union a marriage.

I'll say it again, "Marriage" is a religious word. Perhaps it is time to return that word to the religious, and replace the term "marriage" in the law books with "civil union" or "domestic union" or "civil partnership" or some other legal contract term. That way "marriage" can be practiced as understood by each religious body. Those who are irreligious can call their unions whatever they want. Liberal Christians can call gay unions marriage if they want. But everyone can have a civil union from the state. That way, there will be no "separate but equal" issue, a complaint of advocates of and sympathizer to gay marriage.

Parallel legal terms have worked, as argued for here, and it seen to work great for both gay and straight marriages in France, and the French Catholic church (at first against the law now see no issue with it), and U.S. straight couples now seem to be trying out civil unions instead of marriage, but "separate but equal" just does not fly in our society because of its abuse in history. If everyone could be recognized, who wanted it, as legal domestic partners, with all the rights from the federal government, then the Defense of Marriage Act, another hurdle in the hindrance of federal rights where states recognize offer equal rights, could be bypassed.

My proposal does not mean that clergy could no longer partner with the state, but they would no longer sign marriage licenses, but rather domestic partner licenses. I don't think the opening of the floodgates will result in a wash of gay partnerships but rather more straight partnerships, who dread the "M word" but want to preserve privileged rights including divorce, because without marriage, one can't get a divorce and can be left stranded economically.

I value comments from the left and right on this proposal. I find the wisdom of the NYT editorial by Blankenhorn and Ruach very helpful,
In all sharp moral disagreements, maximalism is the constant temptation. People dig in, positions harden and we tend to convince ourselves that our opponents are not only wrong-headed but also malicious and acting in bad faith. In such conflicts, it can seem not only difficult, but also wrong, to compromise on a core belief.
So if this proposal can help the church demonstrate that we love our neighbors by not denying rights they feel entitled to, by denying ourselves the privilege of power in our society, by living according to the norms of a heavenly culture to provide a contrast of hope, then maybe the kingdom of Jesus in America will be more lamb-like with plowshares instead of swords.

Nuance come from conversation, so please comment here and refine this idea.

See similar proposals from two Pepperdine law professors, expanded on by Time mag, and Ms. mag, and supported by at least one atheist.
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Sunday, January 08, 2012

book report: Over Fields of Fire by Egorova (2010)

I enjoy autobiographies, and the story of the Russian communist ground attack pilot, Anna Alexandrovna Timofeeva-Egorova, who helped repel the Germans from the USSR is better than any work of fiction I've read recently. Over Fields of Fire reads like an oral history, organized chronologically, but roughly transcribed. The amanuensis, if there was one, preferred ellipsis to periods at the end of paragraphs, as if Egorova stopped abruptly. It was annoying but did not take away form her story of determination, luck, hardship, betrayal by her country then redemption. After reading Davies' book, No Simple Victory, and his criticism of Soviet tactics, I had thought of the Red Army in only one dimension, soulless communists. But Egorova did not need a political officer to force her to fly and defend her motherland. She sought work in Moscow before the war to help build a modern subway as an enthusiastic Komsomol member. When she wasn't working underground or sleeping she was learning all she could about flying. Then the war came and she was able to use her abilities for the defense of her country. She defended her country even though her brother was wrongly sent to GULaG. Interestingly to me, her hometown retained its Orthodox priest who performed a funeral for her after her plane went down and she was presumed dead. Although Stalin tried hard to execute most of the clergy, nevertheless, enough remained in out of the way places to serve such purposes. Because Stalin considered all Soviet POW's traitors, she had to endure more mistreatment from her own people, the SMERSH, after surviving her plane crash, extensive burns, and maltreatment by the Nazis in a POW camp. Yet she persevered and insisted on her rights and history, a decorated and highly successful pilot, to retrieve her communist card and return to good standing. She made no headway until after Stalin passed and Krushchev, his successor, declared that mistakes were made and needed to be made right. Hers were made right.

My one other formatting criticism is the translator's choice to leave too many words untranslated, but footnoted. In a paper version this would not be so bad, but in the Kindle version, it was too much flipping around. I picked this up in the Kindle store when it was temporarily free and it was worth every penny.
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Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Jesus's resurrection and the Law of the Pressurized Conspirator

I re-read an old book, among many, over the Christmas break,Cover of Cover via Amazon God in the Pits by Mark A. Ritchie. I highly recommend it. The section I want to transcribe here is the same argument I made a year ago, to start off 2011 at the UmBlog. No one dies for a their own lie. Nor do ten guys from many strata of society choose death under torture in many different societies maintaining they witnessed that Jesus rose from the dead. Ritchie writes from the commodities trading pit where fellow workers were busted for inside trading, among other things. First he gives credit to Chuck Colson's experience and observations.

Watergate conspirator Charles Colson was the first to notice this principle of the pressurized conspirator. In his book Loving God, colson observed that even with all the power of the presidential office to be preserved, his small band of loyal followers of the president could not contain the Watergate coverup for more than three weeks. As the enemies of the White House increased the pressure, the men of power gave in to the instinct of self-preservation. Indeed, the likelihood of exposure increased as the pressure on the individuals increased. For purposes of comparison, Colson hypothesized that the original founders of the Christian faith were a band of conspirators like those involved in Watergate; that they had, as my atheist professor suggested, disposed of their beloved leader's body in some hidden spot and proceeded to proclaim him miraculously alive. they soon found themselves the objects of the most cruel torture. And the more widely they spread their story, the more misery they had to endure. After his own experience as a conspirator, Colson observed that they could not have endured the pressure and kept their story intact had they been conspirators. pp. 204-5

Then Ritchie observes his own world of work.
The inside traders have everything to gain, while the first century conspirators had not only no positive things to gain but were inflicting on themselves more misery than it is possible for a human being to comprehend. In addition, the exposure of the insiders would not honly have removed their power and money, but would also have brought upon them great shame and possible jail terms. The opposite was the case for the disciples. Their exposure would not only have stopped their suffering, it might have produced significant financial and political reward for the individual who could have effected the exposure. Yet they maintained their story. p. 206

He goes on to recall a conversation with his wife about this topic.
"I don't know," she said. "People have been known to die for causes that were just wrong...Just because someone died for something doesn't make them any more right about their opinion than anyone else. What does it prove? Only that they are sincerely convinced, maybe misled."
"But this is different and that's just the point. The torturous death of the first-century eyewitnesses doesn't prove that theya re smarter than anyone else. but it does prove beyond any doubt that their testimony was sincere. they had to have been absolutely convinced that they had seen him alive." pp. 206-7
As far as I'm concerned, any defense of the Christian faith has to start with the resurrection of Jesus. Everything hinges on Jesus's resurrection. St. Paul himself writes 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty...17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! See 1 Corinthians 15.
If he didn't rise from the dead, his claims to divinity fall flat. If he's not divine he can't forgive sins. If did not rise, his words aren't trustworthy. If his words aren't trustworthy, the rest of the Bible is not either. But there were witnesses to the resurrected Jesus. They would not recant. They were convinced by their first hand encounter with the risen Jesus that he is indeed God.
English: Resurrection of ChristImage via Wikipedia
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