Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Monday, November 30, 2009

Word

Again the word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, what is this proverb you people have about the land of Israel, which goes: The days keep passing by, and every vision fails?

"Therefore say to them: This is what the LORD God says: I will put a stop to this proverb, and they will not use it again in Israel. But say to them:

"The days draw near,
as well as the fulfillment of every vision. …

"But I, the LORD, will speak whatever message I will speak, and it will be done. …” – Ezekiel 12:22-25

It used to be a big thing among certain flavors of Spirit-filled Christians to prophesy over people. I’ve had it happen to me. I was sitting in the back of a church in Keller, Texas one Sunday night when the preacher came all the way from the front to me, slapped me in the chest with his big, red Bible and began to prophesy over me. I don’t remember what was said. I was in another church in – well, let’s just say somewhere close to Dallas – where the speaker for the evening was a cute little blonde woman. It was a decent crowd of probably four or five hundred people. My wife and I were off to the side, several rows back from the stage. After the service, the blonde rushed off the platform and up to my wife to ask her for permission to give me a hug, which my slightly bemused wife graciously granted. She apparently did not make the all too common error of mistaking me for George Clooney. Instead, she thought I was sad and discouraged, which I was, and she wanted to encourage me – spiritually, of course. Another time, I was in church in Oklahoma where prophesying was going on. I learned afterward that the lady playing the keyboard (not a blonde) had a word for me, but I looked so mean, she, lacking the courage of the woman in Dallas, was afraid to approach me. Once up in Columbia, Missouri, a minister called for me to come up so he could prophesy over me. When I shook my head, he just nodded and said, “That’s wisdom” – whether he meant on my part or his, I’m not sure. I don’t think he was blonde, either.

There were some other occasions, but I never paid too much attention. Even a charismatic dancing on the back of the pew will admit that a “word” is never something wholly new but rather a confirmation of what we have already heard or sensed at some level. I’m not denying or questioning the validity or value of words of knowledge, words of wisdom, or personal prophecy. I’m just a little uncomfortable being singled out and prefer to pick up my insights wholesale from the pulpit or the Bible, as has happened many times, including an instance or two where I thought the entire church service was orchestrated solely for my benefit.

It may be that the closest I have ever gotten to an honest-to-goodness personal prophetic utterance came from my sixth-grade teacher who said, “You should be an engineer.” Wherever you are Mrs. Mickelson, I owe these eighty-hour weeks and 3:00AM hotline calls all to you. Of course, she was probably thinking of a reasonably sane kind of engineering, like civil or mechanical. No one had heard of software, let alone software engineers, back in those days. The only thing I knew about engineering was that you got to wear cool boots. Nevertheless, despite my best efforts to go in a completely different direction, this is where I wound up. It could be worse; she could have said, “You should be a mime,” which is what the music teacher said, but it came too late to alter destiny.

Most of the time, God speaks to most of us through our circumstances. I’m not sure if that’s His preferred method or simply the most expedient means of getting our attention. Nothing says you’re walking on thin ice like falling into the creek. And, like ice water in your jock, a prophetic word is not only a wake-up call but an often disturbing revelation. It only seems that it is about the future and predictive because everything needs time to happen. By revealing Jesus, prophecy shows us who we are. As He is revealed in us and through us – that’s really the only way He can be revealed to us, we begin to understand who and what we are, why we’re here and where we are going.

I like the way God put it to the people of Ezekiel’s day – whatever I say, that’s what’s going to happen. We can believe and live it out, or we can reject it and find life getting out of our control. What we can’t do is claim the word of the Lord has failed or will fail. The enemy was at the gates of Jerusalem. The prophets had foretold the destruction of the city and the temple and the death or captivity of the inhabitants. Ezekiel’s listeners did not want to believe that the day of reckoning was upon them. They were like the man who fell off the skyscraper saying as he passed each floor, “So far, so good.” It hasn’t happened yet; therefore, it is never going to happen, though reality looms, ever larger. That’s the negative side.

Through the Cross, there is a positive side. The Lord says that He has chosen us to be holy and blameless in His sight (Ephesians 1:4). There are plenty of people around to tell us He didn’t really mean us or that it will never happen, and they might even have some evidence to back it up. Whose report will you believe? You and I are holy and blameless -- not in the far-off future, in heaven or the sweet bye-and-bye. Now. It is the fulfillment of every vision, with nothing missing, nothing lacking. Every prophecy about Christ and about His Body – about all of us holy and blameless believers is accomplished. What God says it is, it is.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Assignment: Thanksgiving

Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus – Philippians 4:6-7

I will be out this week, and I want to wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving. This is truly the American holy day.

As part of your Thanksgiving, I’d like to make a suggestion, a sort of assignment for us. First, get something in which to keep a journal. It can be your computer, a notepad, or the backs of some old envelopes. Next, as early as possible after you wake up in the morning, write down as many things as you can think of for which you are thankful from the day before. Try to come up with at least five.

For example, in the morning, I’m going to note that I was thankful for a quadruple expresso I had yesterday, that my wife complained very little about my driving, that I was able to find some coffee on sale at the supermarket, that I got a decent haircut, that my daughter has found a reasonably nice place to rent, that she has agreed to let me do the painting before she moves in, that I found the cheapest gasoline ($2.35) in the area right across from Arby’s, that I got an Arby’s roast beef sandwich and the curly fries were actually hot, etc.

Try to make entries in your thankfulness journal every day this week. If you feel it is beneficial, continue. It’s not something that is related solely to the holiday. It’s not something that takes a lot of time to do. Don’t try to make it spiritual. A good expresso is a joy forever – or at least a good long-lasting buzz. Just list stuff that gave you a moment of joy, of slack, of peace, of hope, whatever.

The reason we want to wait until the next morning to make our entries is because sleep allows the meaningfulness and significance of an event to soak into the subconscious and be processed. If we continue this practice and are diligent, I think we will see that God really does work all things together for good to those who love Him.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Science and the Suppression of Really Inconvenient Truth

Some stories about the hacking of the East Anglia CRU are now circulating. Fox, I understand, has picked up on the story, and Drudge has it up. I think the Telegraph was one of the first to carry much information. The BBC acknowledged the hack but did not carry any of the information from the leaked documents. This story from the Daily Mail seems to be a bit of a Molotov cocktail since it carries the accusation of “massaged temperature data” right up front. This is the first thing that set me off when I saw some of the emails yesterday as the writer talked about using “Mike’s trick” (apparently Michael Mann of the hockey stick graph) of adding “real temperatures” to the data to “hide the decline”.

Scientists, unless they work in the corporate world, have a great deal of their research funded by governments and related entities. When one deals with the government, one has to speak the language of government and trade in some degree of politicking to be successful. All scientists are human – at least the ones of which I am aware, and they necessarily bring to their work a viewpoint and a belief system. The people I know at work – engineers, technicians, and managers – are mostly honest people, I would say, representative of the general population. As a whole, scientists are probably representative of the general population and mostly honest as well.

The current global warming scandal is one that illustrates something I had considered often. Though I tend to believe scientists are mostly honest, I think they, just like the rest of us, ignore those bits of information that make them uncomfortable. Having a PhD in molecular biology does not automatically make one a better person than, say, having a JD from Harvard, or a BS (how appropriate) in journalism from MU, an MBA from Yale, or a DD from Southwestern Theological Seminary. There’s no real reason to think that a smarter man is a better man. No one really advances that argument. Rather the scientific community insists that the integrity of science stems from its methodology. Investigators are required to publish their findings in peer-reviewed journals in ways that permit replication of the results and critiquing of techniques by the larger population of experts in a given field.

The emails from the CRU strike at the root of this methodology. There is nothing in the documents I have seen that gives any indication that Anthropogenic Global Warming was “made up” out of thin air. The globe did get warmer for a few years after the very cool period in the 1940’s. Nothing indicates the investigators do not believe that AGW is real. That’s part of the problem. What the emails do show is that there is a certain amount of collusion among investigators. They are willing to play fast and loose with the data -- doctor it a little when necessary to better reinforce their beliefs – both in terms of making it look more like warming correlates to human activity and with regard to the overall validity of the analysis. They show a petty and unscientific desire to silence dissenters. There is evidence of a reluctance to have the data thoroughly examined by those skeptical of AGW. The researchers do not want to do anything that will enable critical reviews. They were willing to sacrifice scientific integrity on behalf of activism. One email specifically shows the investigators colluding to control debate on their climate research website.

Back when I was a kid, in the dark ages, one of the tropes of pulp-ish science fiction was the scientist who discovered some dangerous truth or invented some potentially devastating device. The clich├ęd question would be, “What if it fell into the wrong hands?” The reason for that question is people used to understand that simply being able to do something does not mean that it is a good idea to do it. Science should have some external ethical control.

It’s the same thing as civilian oversight of the military. Politicians have screwed up a number of wars by not allowing the military more freedom in doing what needed to be done. I would argue that is exactly why Vietnam turned out the way it did. The military won on the ground. The politicians and the journalists threw away victory. We are very close to doing the same thing in Afghanistan, having narrowly avoided it in Iraq. Generals know the definition of military victory. Political victory, however, may be something very different. Despite the drawbacks and frequent stupidity involved, I know that it is necessary to have the civilian President as the Commander-in-Chief and not allow the military to operate independently.

The same is true of science. Science is a method of acquiring knowledge. It has no means of determining, scientifically, if that knowledge is good or bad. Good or bad means nothing to science as a method. Science knows only if something works or doesn’t work. That is a very limited understanding of truth. Something can be small ‘t’ true and still be very bad.

To be sure, the leaked documents from the CRU show that within the scientific community, and among these climate researchers in particular, there is an internal, guiding ethic. They really do want to “save the planet”, which is, of course, all well and good as far as it goes. The problem is that they see individualism, along with the capitalist-fueled excesses of Western Civilization in the developed nations, and the United States especially as being the main culprit of environmental destruction. In a way that might be true. One is tempted, though, to say, “Them’s the evolutionary breaks, bud.” It’s kind of like the bumpersticker that says, “I didn’t fight my way to the top of the food chain to eat tofu.”

These scientists see human population growth and increasing life spans as a sort of cancer on the planet. Humanity is consuming more and more of the available resources at an ever-faster rate. The whole ecology of Earth is threatened and humanity itself along with it. When someone in climate studies found that the planet had increased in temperature over a few years, and that the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere has increased slightly, the scientific community concluded they had found the way to halt the proliferation of humanity and the destruction of the planetary ecology. The burning of energy-rich fossil fuels increased CO2. If CO2 were a “greenhouse gas”, then energy production would be a factor in increasing the temperature of the Earth by trapping the sun’s heat under the carbon dioxide. Suddenly, environmental activism was wed to climate science. If fossil fuel use could be curtailed through various means, including putative taxation, the effect would be to slow, or possibly even reverse population growth and resource depletion by those notorious unwashed masses of humanity.

Science is claiming that we need more control on our activity, more limitations on our individual freedoms and our ability to live as we like. Scientists appear to believe that for the greater good of both the human population and the planet they should be involved in governing.

I’m willing to give these scientists the benefit of the doubt regarding their intentions. They may genuinely believe that what they are doing is necessary to save the planet. What I’m not willing to give them is control over my life. I’m sorry, but the “greater good” argument doesn’t cut it with me, especially when I see supposedly objective researchers touching up their data to advance their agenda. Science seems to think that it should be the arbiter of humanity’s future. Rule by elite scientistic oligarchs appeals to me no more than rule by any other flavor of elite oligarchs.

But thanks for playing.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Checking the Barcode on the Revelation Wristband

… who are being protected by God's power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. … You love Him, though you have not seen Him. And though not seeing Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. … Therefore, get your minds ready for action, being self-disciplined, and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance but, as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy. -- 1 Peter 1:5,8-9,13-16 (HCSB, emphasis added)


I was reading through First Peter chapter 1 recently. It’s not that I haven’t read it before, but we all know that insight from any holy book, and especially from the Bible, is inexhaustible. As I’ve highlighted above, Peter seems to be talking about something future, not yet revealed. That something is contrasted with the fact that the recipients of his letter are not now seeing Jesus Christ, though they believe in Him. It is easy to pass this off as being about the Second Coming or even about our dying and going to heaven – “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” and all that realm of thought. Undoubtedly that is applicable, but what if Peter is not limiting us to death or Rapture?

If we go back to John 14:19, we read that Jesus said, “… the world will see Me no longer, but you will see Me.” All right, then, He is certainly talking about His post-resurrection appearances to the disciples, but He doesn’t stop at that statement. In verse 21, the Lord continues, “… And the one who loves Me will be loved by My Father. I also will love him and will reveal Myself to him.” Revealing is more than a sighting. Revealing connotes intimacy and relationship. Jesus is not merely back in town. He’s getting Himself a cup of coffee and sitting down face to face with the one who loves Him.

Many there are today wandering the world, thinking if only they could have lived when Jesus lived, met Him, walked and talked with Him, seen Him after He rose from the dead, then they would believe big-time. They would live and walk in the Spirit with power daily. Yet one who walked with Him betrayed Him. Another denied Him. A third refused to believe the words of his friends that He had risen. Even after the Resurrection, Peter was so uncertain about the future and his calling that he thought the inner circle of disciples needed to go back to fishing for a living (see John 21).

If seeing Jesus in person is not a revelation of Him, what would be?

Reading on through John 14-16, we can find frequent references to the Holy Spirit. He is called by Jesus, at one point, “another Comforter”, and what Jesus is telling us is that the Comforter is another one – not different but just like Himself. He also said that it is Holy Spirit’s business to guide us into all truth.

The men who followed Christ during His Incarnation were, clearly, believers. They believed, as Peter stated so boldly, that He was the Messiah. No one can see Jesus in the revelatory sense who does not already believe in Him. Believing is the first step to revelation, but faith, which must, by its nature, involve a degree of revelation, is not all that is necessary. Once we begin to believe, we are on the right path but we are not at the end. We’re like the Slinky that gets pushed off the landing at the top of the stairs onto that first step – except we’re a Slinky that can go uphill (what’s the plural for Slinky? Slinkies? Slinkys? Slinks? Slinkii?).

Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness – without it no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). As Peter has told us already, there is a grace for which we should hope, a grace brought to us through revelation. Now, the writer of Hebrews tells us that revelation is a function of holiness. The call to holiness is a call to receive the grace of revelation that comes only when we set ourselves apart to the Lord. And He is called the Holy Spirit, as well as the Spirit of Truth.

Faith should move us to holiness leading to revelation which in turn leads to faith. There are challenges at every point – challenges to our belief, our surrender, our holiness, and even to our personal revelation.

I used to think it was a bad thing that, if God shows us something, others should question the validity of it or even mock us for it. I no longer think that way for I have come to understand that sentimentality has no real place in Christianity. It’s not that a Christian has to stop being sentimental. He just has to stop thinking that sentimentally is an element of religion or necessarily a religious feeling given by the Spirit. My thinking that something is “touching” does not make it true – not even if it makes me weep. I think it’s good that I can be touched by pathos – the heart should be kept soft, not the head. Revelation may cause an overwhelming emotional response. An emotional response is not a guarantee of revelation.

Some Christians say that we should live holy lives out of concern for our brothers and sisters and the unbelievers around us. I agree. Holy, consistent, self-disciplined living is a powerful testimony to the non-believer. Many find fault with Christ in the behavior of His followers. That we should be careful how we live out of concern for others is confirmed by numerous statements in Scripture. Love for our brothers is vital and is expressed in part through holiness.

If that is our only motivation for holiness, however, it can lead to a degree of superficiality. I know a good church deacon and Sunday School teacher. Looking at his life, most of us would say he is a devout man trying to follow Christ. I know two things about him that most people don’t. He was an exacting father with his two sons, especially the elder. He didn’t abuse the boys except in the fact that he thought they did not need toys and such. He begrudged them their childhood in a sense. The second thing I know from a reliable source is that when his wife is out of town, he rents videos rated X. I can’t really find it in my heart to condemn him for that, as I know his wife quite well, and if I were married to her, I’d probably rent them when she was home. I’m not saying the deacon isn’t a believer, that he’s a hypocrite, or even that he isn’t a holy man. I am merely pointing out that holiness is about other people secondarily and God primarily.

If we are seeking Jesus, we are seeking revelation – direct spiritual knowledge -- gnosis in the coon-0-sphere. Without holiness, no one will see God. Holiness is being set apart to the Lord. Each of us in seeking Him will realize some things have to be put aside: attitudes, thought patterns, and habits, things that absorb too much of our time, counterproductive relationships, anything that holds us back, darkens or distracts. It’s the Pearl -- this grace that comes through revelation, I cannot haggle over the Great Price.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Material Management

Why should I fear in times of trouble? The iniquity of my foes surrounds me. They trust in their wealth and boast of their abundant riches. Yet these cannot redeem a person or pay his ransom to God – since the price of redeeming him is too costly, one should forever stop trying – so that he may live forever and not see the Pit. – Psalm 49:5-9

Whoever tries to make his life secure will lose it … -- Luke 17:33 (HCSB)


Some years ago my father had a neighbor who was a Pentecostal preacher. Dad liked the man and his family. Both the preacher and his youngest daughter often went coyote hunting with Dad. The preacher wasn’t particularly successful or prosperous in a material sense. His church was small, and his attempts at farming ended in losses rather than gains for the most part. The family kept afloat by the preacher driving a school bus and his wife working as a cook at a local restaurant. They did manage to eat well or at least in large amounts.

One day the transmission went out on their van, which was their only means of transportation. They had enough money to cover putting in a new one except for the fact that the pump on their well went out at nearly the same time. Dad loaned them a thousand dollars and told them to pay it back when they could with no interest. It took the folks a few months but they did repay his loan. When the wife gave him the check, Dad commented that it would be a good idea to keep a little in reserve. The lady replied that they just always trusted God.

When Dad told me the story, he said, “That’s all right, I guess, but it don’t hurt to plan ahead a little.” He thought we ought not to presume too much upon the Lord when it was in our power to put up a little for a rainy day. Dad never feared rainy days. It was drought that bothered him. He had lived through the droughts of the 1930’s and what he considered a worse drought in our area in the mid-1950’s. Once he had a crop planted on one of the ridge fields, a crop he really needed in order to get by that year. He went to look at it one Sunday morning and saw that it was in bad shape. He came back to the house and commented, somewhat bitterly, “If it don’t rain in the next fifteen minutes that ain’t gonna make nothin’.” The family loaded up and went on to church. Before the service was over, it began to rain.

There must be some balance in our views. Lack of dependence upon the Lord is wrong but so is presumption that leads to complacency or even laziness. The same Paul who told us that God will supply all our needs also told us that anyone who refuses to work should not expect eat. The right idea is to do what we can and not worry. I’m not very good at that. I like security. I like having a nice house to live in, having my gadgets, tools, and toys. I like knowing that I have money to cover everything that might ever possibly come up, or that I will always have a job if I need one. But if I have all that, am I depending on God or my bank account? Am I laying up treasures in the wrong place? How do I deal with the fears of economic uncertainty, of potential inflation that could make my savings virtually worthless in a matter of months? What if I get sick and can no longer work? What happens if the government decides I have too much and confiscates my money or property? What if … What if … What if I lost everything? How would I take care of my wife? How would it feel to be, as my nephew says, financially embarrassed?

How much of anxiety is commonsense, and how much of commonsense is lack of faith? Once we begin to walk the road of “prudence” and “commonsense”, where do we stop? Once we begin to accumulate possessions, how do we keep from making idols of them? I need to take care of my truck as a good steward, but I don’t want to obsess about it. The secret is in the word “steward”. Most of us – unless we’re state-raised – will not drive someone else’s car as we drive our own. We’ll take it a little easier. In college, I was always more protective of my roommate’s stereo equipment than I was of mine – his was better anyway.

Nothing I have, not even life, is mine. I’m just the manager. I’ve been left in charge. I’ll be held accountable for what I do with it, but it is not mine. The reason I can’t redeem myself is that I have nothing with which to pay. I can’t give my life to God in exchange for anything because it has been His life all along. He just wants to see how I handle it.

That’s a scary thought.

On the other hand, it is kind of freeing, as the Psalmist says, to just quit trying to ransom myself. I don’t have anything and never will have anything except that which is the Lord’s. Give it up forever. Not being the owner frees me from the delusions and bondages of wealth and possessions. Being the responsible manager keeps me from being complacent. It almost sounds like God has this figured out.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Deer Season and Disarmament

The "feminization" of America and especially of American foreign policy continues, and it will lead, without question, to conflict and unpleasant consequences.

Firearms deer season is underway in my area. The rut began probably around two weeks ago, that is when the bucks started moving and stripping the bark off some of my trees. Why they can’t limit themselves to the hundreds of saplings in the woods, I do not understand, but that’s another topic. A rutting buck is a masculine creature, no doubt about it. The bucks are looking for does and willing to fight for them. What’s interesting is that these animals very rarely kill one another. Occasionally, two well-matched males will literally lock horns and be unable to break apart, but that is a most unusual occurrence. Even serious injuries are relatively uncommon despite the many encounters that take place among the estimated 1.4 million deer in Missouri’s herd.

Over thousands and thousands of years, evolution has enabled bucks to come to the conclusion that it is better to avoid a fight with an obviously more powerful opponent. Where the contenders are more evenly matched, there is a well-developed instinct to break off the encounter before any serious damage is done and look for some lone does or perhaps for some sweet chicks pursued by a weaker adversary.

There are two types of fights that take place in nature: fights for dominance among males, and fights for survival against predators. In the latter case, there is no option. Every struggle is a matter of life and death. The intended victim – male, female, young, or old – flees if possible, but if cornered it must fight or die. In the former situation, males may fight among themselves for dominance, but every fight is optional. Males are inclined to size up the situation, run bluffs, challenge, back off quickly, and work things out, where possible, without getting beaten up or drawing blood.

To some extent, this behavior is paralleled in humans. Imagine an old schoolyard in the 1920’s or even the 1950’s and ‘60’s. Boys seem more aggressive. They challenge one another. There may be an occasional shoving match. Lines may be drawn in the dirt. Dares are made. There’s lots of action and apparent conflicts. There may even be fist fights – usually more like awkward wrestling matches. A bloody nose, a split lip, or a black eye is no big deal in the overall scheme of things. The dust settles. The fighters may be pals both before and after a fight.

Those were what you might call masculine fights. Contrast that with modern schoolyard conflicts where teenagers kill one another, as happened recently in Chicago. Those killings have all the marks of the other kind of natural fight – the struggle for survival that also involves females – often females fighting for their helpless offspring. For want of a better term, we'll call them feminine fights.

It is understandable from an evolutionary perspective that women would be inclined to approach conflict differently than men. Obviously, we are talking in generalities. Many of the country girls I knew growing up were, using my terms, more masculine in their thinking. I had a cousin a few years older than me who learned to fight from her older brothers, and she, in turn, used to fight with me just for fun. Humans are not bound and controlled solely by instinct. Learning and individual differences are much more powerful in humans.

For generations now, in large segments of society, the men have been removed from their traditional place in the family. Boys are raised in the absence of fathers. Government education and popular culture do their best to portray male aggressiveness in a negative light. The natural aggressiveness that comes with testosterone never gets properly identified with a mature male role model. Instead of conflicts being somewhat noble, instead of fights as displays of competence, courage, and the willingness to endure, every fight is seen by these mamas' boys from the perspective of the feminine. Every fight is life or death. Is it any wonder that there is such a rash of killing in the inner cities?

Our problem is that society is becoming increasingly feminized. We are equating the feminine with peace, progress, harmony, civilization and sophistication. The masculine is seen as threatening, uncouth, savage, and primal. We think that the idea of “peace through strength” is outdated. In fact, peace through strength is more than a good idea; it is the law. Weakness invites aggression, and there is no way around it. To voluntarily weaken ourselves by disarming – either as individuals or nations – means that we become more of a target for those who would take advantage of us, rob us or attempt to destroy us.

If you have any doubt that Barack Obama is the perfect example of a feminized male – feminized in his thought processes not hormonally or sexually, of course – consider how he is dealing with his political opponents. The struggle to push government health care on an unwilling population may be politically disastrous, but Obama sees it as a fight to the death. He refuses to engage in legitimate political dialog. He dismisses the idea of compromise. As he said early on, “We won.” At the moment he is dismissing critics of his delay in making a decision on Afghanistan as not being engaged or not understanding. He falls back on the phrase “it is important to get it right,” meaning, it is important that he is perceived as being right.

While seeing his American political foes as predators, he sees foreign policy as if it were a schoolyard fight -- exactly the opposite of most prior administrations. The truth is that both predators and bullies are always on the lookout for weakness. They will inevitably go after those who seem to be vulnerable, easy targets. They retreat only when faced with a determined defense.

Obama’s willingness to disarm the United States unilaterally, the dismantling of missile defense systems, the disregard for military expertise all are symptoms of his feminine, life-or-death thinking. The leftist academics now in control believe that if America is weaker, then we will invite less conflict. They hope a less threatening stance will lead to peace. Unfortunately for us, Obama and his feminized advisers are wrong. Whether our opponents are predatory or simply opportunistic, a weaker America emboldens them to attack us and our interests. Attempts at appeasement are blood in the water for our enemies.

Here’s a simple diplomatic principle: never take the advice or give in to the demands of those who would benefit from your failure.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Bad Case of the Too Much Caffeine Not Enough Snoozin' Blues

I have slept through one night – last night – since, I think, Thursday. I’m too old for this. Really it didn’t used to bother me but does it ever now. I recall my father once saying, “I really noticed myself going downhill after sixty.” We are not better than our fathers – I noticed it after fifty. I am too worn out and short on time to finish the third part of my myth series right now, so I think I’ll post something that doesn’t require much thought, i.e., politics.

If my one-time guest blogger, Joe, were available, I’d let him share his thoughts. He has some wisdom to impart with regard to parlor-ticks, but, alas, he is busy getting in his winter wood, between shooting – I mean, scouting for deer. Since construction is down, the logging business is not doing that well, and Joe has a lot of mouths to feed – mostly hounds. The kids can always be put to work and boarded out to the neighbors and kinfolk.

As I was working last night, I kept checking the election news. I would say that the only race the people lost last night was in New York’s 23rd Congressional District. The loss would have been as bad, if not worse, had the establishment Republican candidate won. The contest was really been the establishment and the people.

For my part, I am getting a little jaded when it comes to someone like Newt Gingrich – whom I have always respected for his intellect – his character, not so much. I’m also a little weary of Mr. Steele and the rest of the beltway Republican crowd. They have misunderstood what we mean by conservative. It does not mean getting Republicans elected, and it does not mean a defense of the status quo.

The reason people like me adopted the conservative label was as a reaction to the socialists’ adoption and subsequent tainting of the word “liberal”. I don’t want things to stay the way they are. I want freedom. I want the statists to go back in the closet. I want the government to SHRINK. If I succeed or if I fail, I want it to be in a clean game. I don’t want life to be a variation of professional wrestling. I don’t want to be protected from myself. I don’t want to have to hire a damn lawyer every time somebody is in need of an ass-whoppin’. And if I’m the one who gets my ass kicked, then I want to be able to be man enough to get up, shake the better man’s hand, and buy him the beverage of his choice.

I don’t want to have to worry about being arrested for a hate crime or sexual harassment for opening a door for a female, calling her a girl, or telling her she looks good. I want to be able to get on an airplane with my Swiss Army Knife again and not be stripped searched so nobody will think the government is profiling. We all know how many planes have been hijacked, flown into buildings, or blown up by old, blue-eyed hillbillies – especially as a percentage of the population.

I want the border closed. How hard is that? I can’t get a job without giving my resume, college transcripts, and SSN, having a criminal background check, getting fingerprinted and giving a stool sample. Don’t tell me employers can’t figure out that a guy who understands no English word except “Cheby” but somehow has Ralph Kramden’s Social Security card might just be here illegally. The government can’t find and deport them? Really? The government wants to register all the cows in the country for fear some farmer will make a buck they don’t get fifty cents of. How about they register all the illegals who are in this country stealing, murdering, and raping before they worry about Bessie the Heifer?

You want to know what really pisses me off? I’m going to tell you anyway: government schools. I am sick of being economically raped every year to support the schools then having them send the urchins out like a chorus of “Oliver” to sell me Christmas wrapping paper as a fund-raiser. What the hell do I need with wrapping paper? The only Christmas present I’m buying is the local high school’s giant new gee-whiz electronic billboard. Maybe if the high school drama class used the gym instead of having a dedicated “performing arts” building, they could afford to buy their crepe-paper decorations and inkjet cartridges without sticking me up again.

When I went to school, we had around thirty kids in each classroom for eight years. That was all the kids there were in the district. If we had had more kids, we’d have had more in class. My parents and older siblings attended one-room schools. Amazingly we can all read, write, balance a checkbook, make change without a calculator, and manage our finances. I know it wasn’t the Germans who bombed Pearl Harbor. How in the world did we manage to make it without two teachers for every ten students, a building full of administrators drawing six-figure salaries, tennis courts, a pool, counselors, and sensitivity training?

I know I’m an old fogey now, because I officially long for the days when there weren’t too many problems that couldn’t be fixed with seven hundred dollars and a thirty-ought-six.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Myth in History

Israel survives as a nation today because Old Testament mythology of the Chosen People in the stories of David and Goliath, of Moses, Joshua, Daniel, et al, forms the Jewish psyche. Somewhere underlying and underpinning their conscious thoughts, they know they are the People of God, the apple of His eye. They know they can endure great tribulations, trials and persecutions. They know -- despite what their own intellectuals, academics, and politicians may say -- that they are able to persevere, to prosper and to possess the land God promised to them. Jerusalem belongs to the Jews. The Temple Mount is their holy ground.

History, for the children of Israel, has vindicated mythology.

But Israel is hardly the only nation or people with unifying and empowering myths. During the Greek “Dark Ages”, after the collapse of the Mycenaean civilization, Sparta, or Lacedaemon, was a simple Doric village. It took the (possibly) historical lawgiver Lycurgus and a Cretan poet named Thales, along with the epics of Homer to lay the foundation of Spartan culture, including the concepts of simplicity, the separation of the warrior class – specifically the placing of boys in military regiments at age seven, as well as the communal messhalls. They did not strive, as we do, to make life easier. They embraced hardship and shunned ease. This attitude, along with the idea that the royal house of Sparta was related to the legendary Hercules, contributed to the ingrained Spartan belief that one of the citizens of Laconia was worth several warriors from anywhere else. By rigid discipline, a few thousand of these citizens held control of many times their number of helots. They were, for a prolonged period of their history, all but invincible on the field of battle. Spartans did not retreat; they held ranks and did not flee the field of battle. It just did not happen. When Leonidas led his 300 to Thermopylae, they were already steeped in the legends and myths of Spartan culture. The battle there became itself an integral part of the Spartan mythos.

Another aspect of Spartan culture was the cultivation of wit in brevity to the extent that a short, clever answer is referred to as laconic. The American General Anthony McAuliffe was certainly an heir of the Laconians when he replied, “Nuts!” to the German request for his surrender of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. It reminds us of a similar note sent by the Spartans to Alexander the Great’s father, Philip, after his message to them that if he entered Laconia, he would level Sparta. Their reply? “If.” Even in their decline after the disastrous battle of Leuctra, the Spartans remained formidable. Their mythology influenced even their enemies. The Macedonians decided to let them be.

Events of mythological significance are not confined to ancient history. There can be little doubt that the English victory over the Spanish Armada in 1588 became part Britain’s mythic mind-set. Not only is the victory entwined with centuries of British domination of the high seas but to an idea of the island nation’s sovereign and God-ordained separation from the rest of Europe. Nelson’s victories, both at the Battle of the Nile and Trafalgar cemented the British Navy mythos. Nelson himself became a mythological hero. On land, historical figures like Henry V, Wolfe, and Wellington at Agincourt, the Plains of Abraham, and Waterloo were of mythological proportions. As illustrated by both Nelson and Wolfe, the commander’s death as part of his greatest triumph appeals to the myth-maker in all of us.

A more modern American variation of the dying commander is seen in General Patton. Though his exploits on the field of battle had already given Patton legendary standing, his anti-climatic death by accident after the war can leave no doubt about his mythological significance. Patton seems very much like a man on a mission, sent in the hour of the free world’s greatest need, only to pass on – awaiting, as he seemed to believe, like Arthur, a return when he would be needed again.

Myths do not have to arise from military exploits. The Pilgrims voyage on the Mayflower, their story of survival, and their miraculous preservation are worthy of inclusion. Generations of Americans have drawn hope and inspiration from the endurance and deliverance of the Plymouth Colony.

The essence of myth is its relevance to our own situation. Myth tells us that we are not alone, not the first or only ones to face a challenge or to be tried by hardship and suffering. The mythical in history reminds me that each of us has a destiny and a purpose, even in the face of death. This transcends traditional piety and religious sentiment – the pagan and the non-theistic can be as motivated by mythology as the devout believer in God. The others may have to find some different words, perhaps fate or evolution or history, but life must have significance and our mythologies are the heart of that significance.

In the post-modern world, “de-mythologizing” is just another word for deconstruction. Those who would remake society know that they must destroy myths, especially the historical ones. Hence, we have those who say that the English forces were only about 25-50% percent smaller than the opposing French army at Agincourt. They would diminish the scale and import of mythical battles while portraying the leaders as flawed men driven by lust and greed rather than noble ideals. Of course, they have myths of their own, mostly not rooted in reality, but the narrative of myth is so powerful that even ones built on error – e.g., FDR ended the Great Depression and saved America – can be galvanizing and transformative. That this attack on our national mythology has been effective is evidenced by the millions who long for a welfare state to take care of them and support laughable concepts like “gay marriage” while rejecting traditional values, both moral and economic.

We cannot surrender our history to those who would corrupt and de-mythologize it. Our myths are far too vital. Without the Alamo – that is, that story of courage, nobility, and sacrifice that puts the raw historical facts into our hearts rather than our heads, how could there be a Texas? Could there be an America in anything but name without Plymouth or Rogers’ Rangers, without Washington crossing the Delaware, the winter in Valley Forge, without Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett, without the Battle of New Orleans, Gettysburg, the Little Big Horn, San Juan Hill, the Argonne or the Bulge? We have been accused of clinging to our guns and our religion. Our anthem, so detested by the left, says we are the land of the free and the home of the brave (whereas Jeremiah Wright says we are the land of the greedy and the home of the slave -- don't let the door hit you in the ass, Rev). We will also cling to those historical American myths that verify that. If we remain true, history will vindicate our mythology just as it has done for Israel.