09 April 2010

Can a Bishop Do Evil?

Jack Stanton, the Episcopal Bishop of Dallas, felt compelled to publish a book a few years ago in response to Jack Spong, the heretic Bishop of Newark. The title of this book was "Can a Bishop Be Wrong?" The very fact that this question must be asked has to do with the peculiar ecclesiology of the Episcopal Church.

As a Lutheran, my answer to that question is pretty straightforward. Bishops are human. As such, they are in bondage to sin just like the rest of us. And just like the rest of us, I suspect that most of the time they sin because of our fallen human nature, and sometimes they sin because they willfully choose to follow something other than Christ. Just like the rest of us.

For the latter category, I nominate the recent actions of Pastor Duane Pederson, ELCA Bishop of the Northwest Synod of Wisconsin.

Down in Eau Claire, one of the largest cities in the Synod, there are about a half-dozen ELCA congregations. Members of five of those congregations were very upset with the ELCA sexuality decisions of last summer. But, rather than start a fight within their local congregations, they decided to leave. Together, 60 members of the five congregations have formed a new mission church and affiliated with LCMC.

I have been working with these folks. They are hurt, they are lost. They feel betrayed by the church and yet God has comforted them as he has gathered them together as Faith Lutheran Mission Church.

They meet on Sunday evenings in LCMS church building(!). A number of us from the area have been serving as preachers for this congregation. Two of the individuals who were asked by the congregation to preach for them are rostered pastors of the ELCA who served in the Northwest Synod.

Now I thought it was the duty and privilege of a Christian pastor to reach out to the lost and hurting and preach the Good News. Bishop Pederson apparently disagrees. He has sent a letter to those two pastors declaring the folks at Faith Lutheran Mission Church to be schismatics. He has forbidden the pastors who serve “under” him to preach there.

I am tempted to go to a couple of meetings that I know that Bishop Pederson will be appearing at (I won't) and asked him this question: Jesus says you cannot serve two masters. Based on the facts I have just related above, and the fact that you have forbidden your pastors to preach the Good News to people in your synod who are lost,

when did you stop serving the Gospel and start serving the institution? And, as a follow-up, do you lose any sleep over that change in loyalties?

Shellfish: ELCT voices a big 'no' to same-sex marriages

Shrimp, who has quoted me before, has some comments on the ELCA - Tanzania story too.

Shellfish: ELCT voices a big 'no' to same-sex marriages

Lewis Carroll rules!

This headline did not surprise me:

ELCA Head Affirms Commitment to Centrality of Scripture.

In the article, Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson says, "we share a commitment to proclaim to the whole world the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ, to serve our neighbor, and to build a world of justice and peace."

The problem with the ELCA's proclamation was neatly summed up by H. Richard Niebuhr 50 years before the ELCA was born: "A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”

The ELCA uses words like salvation, evangelical, Law and Gospel, even sin. But the normative theologian seems to be a Lewis Carroll character
'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less.'
They were sitting on the wall. They have had a great fall. I do not think they will be put together again.

So sad.

Pseudoscientific myopia

Perhaps the most common problem in our society today is myopia. We can see those things, ideas and beliefs that we hold close quite clearly, but we are unable to see things at a distance.

Consider the case of Sandi Siefker of Rock Island, Illinois. Sandy attended the Tea Party Express when it visited the Quad cities of Illinois and Iowa. Now please know, I am agnostic regarding the Tea Party as a movement. I am thrilled to see more people involved in politics and concerned about issues that I think are potentially devastating for our country, but whether this will be translated anything... well, I'm agnostic. Ms. Siefker, however, is quite clear that this is an act of evil.
Sandi Siefker of Rock Island attended the rally, but not in support of the Tea Party's message. She stood quietly on the edge of the gathering with a sign that read "Tea Klux Klan, Modern Day KKK."

"I'm pleasantly surprised," Ms. Siefker said. "There's no hoods or capes, but I know they are racists."

Ms. Siefker said these protests didn't occur when America had a white president. She said she believes much of the Tea Party fervor started when a black president took over the Oval Office.
Given that Pres. Obama is our first black president, and given that there have been street demonstrations, many of them much more violent than anything the tea party is even accused of by even the most ranting lunatic critics, it seems to me that Ms. Siefker is suffering from a case of political myopia. Because she "knows" ... she KNOWS ... that these people are racists, apart from any evidence, she cannot see the lack of evidence that she is right as possibly evidence that she is wrong.

This same sort of myopia occurs on the subject though Wobal Glarming. Consider former VP Gore, quoted here, making it clear that today's weather is a result of climate change:

Gore, the self-anointed climate change alarmist-in-chief, told supporters on a March 15 conference call that severe weather in certain regions of the country could be attributed to carbon in the atmosphere--including the recent rash of rainy weather. "The odds have shifted toward much larger downpours," Gore said. "And we have seen that happen in the Northeast, we've seen it happen in the Northwest--in both of those regions are among those that scientists have predicted for a long time would begin to experience much larger downpours."

And contrast that with this report from the Hill:
A top Obama administration scientist on Monday struck back at climate skeptics who claim that record snowstorms this winter have undercut evidence of global warming. “It is important that people recognize that weather is not the same thing as climate,” said Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
In other words, we know that wobal glarming exists, we know that human beings cause it, and therefore if today's weather fits our expectations, it is proof; if it does not, it is not proof.Scientific myopia prevents them from seeing that the lack of evidence-or contrary evidence-is proof that they could be wrong.

One more example. As I commented, I recently spent some time on avowedly liberal blog. (I don't know why. I did let myself get drawn into a p***ing match that was ultimately pointless. It is hard to discuss Scripture with someone who doesn't believe that some of the most important books the New Testament are. in fact, inspired.)

One of the frequent commentators to the blog has made it very clear that while we cannot know the source and origin of human sexual orientations, the experience of homosexual and bisexual persons, while not normative for the rest of us, is normative for them. (My phrasing, but trying to be fair.) But it is simply impossible but that could be the case when dealing with someone who claims to have recovered from homosexual attractions. She writes:
Richard Cohen cites anecdotal evidence, ie his own marriage, as scientific proof that gayness can be cured. I’m sorry, but a case study of 1 is hardly scientific proof. It only proves that he is either bisexual or lying to himself and others.
I will stipulate that a case study of one is not scientific proof, there is certainly more than one case. But, rather than accept the possibility, that someone can in fact be changed in their sexual orientations, and the experiential testimony of someone who says it happened to them, the preconceived notions amount to "proof" that he is "bisexual or lying".

Myopia rules.

06 April 2010

Racist Tea?

I wish I could find a picture, but last week I saw a news report on a Tea Party, and, as God is my witness, there was a protester in the crowd carrying a sign that read:

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised!

It has been de rigueur in the MSM to call the Tea Partier's "racist."

But really, why would a racist quote the original rap song?

03 April 2010

Constitutional Principles

Did you hear about the congressman who said that if there was a criminal out there, we had to lock him up, so that the people would be safe, even if it meant that we would accidentally lock up a bunch of innocent guys? He was challenged on that, and said, "I don't worry too much about the constitution."

Me either, but it is the same set of liberties that are at risk when a congressman says this:

What I find particularly hopeful about the opportunity to overturn the Health care reform that Congress just passed is that even the liberal Seattle Times is troubled by it's constitutional impact.

We think McKenna [the Washington Attorney General who has joined in the suit against the bill] has a good case, and one the progressives who condemn him ought to appreciate. These critics are so often right about the dangers of corporate power, and particularly the rapacity of insurance companies.

But if it's federal power, and it's for a social purpose, and Barack Obama is presiding over it, they set their judgment aside. They accept a 2,000-page bill on its label only. They accept its promise, almost surely vacant, of cost savings. They overlook the deals cut with the insurance and pharmaceutical interests. They shrug off the "cornhusker kickback." And to those who invoke the Constitution, they become shrill.

This page supported Obama, and we still like him. But we also support checks and balances on federal power, and review of this law by the Supreme Court.

If this passes muster with the Supreme Court, the states will lose all power over their own affairs. Under a more conservative congressional regime, Washington and Oregon can say goodbye to death with dignity laws, and a lot of other things.

31 March 2010

When Resources are scarce ...

What is the best way to distribute them?

Some of us believe that a free market, appropriately regulated, is the best, if still imperfect, mechanism.

One of the "problems" with the market system is that it does create disparities between "haves" and "have nots." I would suggest that this is, in many cases, simply an outcome of a meritocracy. If A has a skill and a work ethic that gets her a job where she gets gold plated health insurance coverage, and B is dependent on charity or government programs for coverage, and therefore receives coverage that is less appealing, then the natural response would be for B to seek to change her circumstances to have the same advantages as A.

(The "progressive" solution is to take the "haves" and "have nots" and equalize them all as "have littles.")

Many who distrust the market believe that the government should be the "neutral" arbitrator of scarce resources, because it is "impartial." Two recent stories belie that suggestion. First, the Chicago Tribune reports

While many Chicago parents took formal routes to land their children in the best schools, the well-connected also sought help through a shadowy appeals system created in recent years under former schools chief Arne Duncan.

Whispers have long swirled that some children get spots in the city's premier schools based on whom their parents know. But a list maintained over several years in Duncan's office and obtained by the Tribune lends further evidence to those charges. Duncan is now secretary of education under President Barack Obama.

The log is a compilation of politicians and influential business people who interceded on behalf of children during Duncan's tenure. It includes 25 aldermen, Mayor Richard Daley's office, House Speaker Michael Madigan, his daughter Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, former White House social secretary Desiree Rogers and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun.

Non-connected parents, such as those who sought spots for their special-needs child or who were new to the city, also appear on the log. But the politically connected make up about three-quarters of those making requests in the documents obtained by the Tribune.

Select congressional leadership staffers -- some of whom wrote the health insurance act -- are not governed by new rules governing millions of Americans and the rest of their colleagues on how they buy insurance -- and the special exemption has the Hill hopping mad.

Come 2014, all 100 U.S. senators, all 435 representatives in the House and every one of their personal aides will have to go to the newly formed state exchanges for health insurance -- just like everyone else in the country who isn't covered by their employer.

But select congressional leadership staffers -- some of whom wrote the health insurance act -- won't. And neither will White House staffers and Cabinet members -- nor the president himself. They will be allowed to keep their current plans, which are offered to all other federal employees.

And now many congressional aides who like their current health insurance policies and will be forced to switch are asking: Why?

They want to know: If an exchange is good enough for them, why isn't it good enough for the people who wrote the plan? Why isn't it good enough for the president and his Cabinet?

The answer to these questions is actually very simple. "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."

Best and Worse Covers of Bohemian Rhapsody

And I really liked Suzi McNiel on Rock Star .......

30 March 2010


Wow. The guy who threatened to kill Republican Whip Eric Cantor (incidentally, the highest ranking Jew in the US Government)

donated money to the Democratic Party!

How big a deal is this?

Zero. Nada. Not significant at all.

Political parties have no control over what nut cases donate to them. But if the shoe were on the other foot, you can bet it would be a big deal in the MSM.

All Across the Multi-verse

I have written on the religious nature of multiverse theories here, but Captain Thin has a really great take on the phenomena that, using multiverse theory, proves the existence of God:
If, indeed, infinitely possible universes must arise in the multiverse, then surely there must have already arisen (in the infinite past) universes where “gods” began to exist. And surely, in the infinite possibilities of the past, some of these gods must have discovered a way to not only control their own universes, but further to leave the confines of those universe and enter consciously into the multiverse. Moreover, in the infinite past, one of these gods now observing the multiverse must inevitably take control of the multiverse itself. And at that point, the multiverse would cease to be infinite; it would become a machine, operating under the orders of one particular entity.
Read the whole argument here.

29 March 2010

Life Lessons

At John's funeral (he was 90+) a few years ago, Lee (c. 70) stood up to tell this story:

When I was about 16, I was walking through town one day. I saw John working on his truck, so I asked what he was doing. He told me he was rebuilding the transmission, and asked if I could help. "Sure,"He replied. We worked for a couple hours and got the whole thing put back together. We got in the truck and started up, and John put the truck in first gear. He eased his foot off the clutch... and the truck lurched backwards 4 feet!

John shut off the truck, looked at me and said, "Let that be a lesson to you, Lee. Whenever you test out a transmission, always look behind you first."

Lee finished the story, "I have no idea what that means, but I've never forgotten it, and I've tried to live my life by it."

A true story. All of which serves as an entrée to this video clip.

When did schism become a bad thing?

I am still involved in what is now being called the reconfiguration of Lutheranism in North America. It is now working out that there are three major parties involved in this. First, there is the ELCA, or, as I like to call it,The GBLC (Great Big Lutheran Church. And I have been calling it that from well before the current difficulties; the moniker was never intended to stand for anything else.)

Last summer, the GBLC made some decisions regarding the authority of Scripture in matters of sexuality that have very much upset many people. As a result of that, some of those people are looking to leave that church body. One of the groups some of them are looking to lead that departure is Lutheran CORE, and LCORE is forming something they are calling the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). It will come into existence later this year.

Others of us have been upset with the GBLC for some time. I personally think they departed from Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions in 1999 when they adopted the historic episcopate from the Episcopal Church. Those of us who are of that mind formed LCMC in 2001.

There is no real battle between the NALC and LCMC folks, because we have very different understandings of what the church is and how it functions best. The big fight is between the ELCA - who doesn't want to lose any property - and those who are trying to depart to one of these two groups. There are numerous sources for tracking this; one of the best is here.

With that as background, my comment:

One of the charges being leveled against those wanting to leave the ELCA, and against me and others who are trying to help them, is that we are the dreaded "schismatics!"

Consider this:
  • In Exodus 14:21, as Pharaoh's army arrives to kill the Israelites by the Red Sea, it says that, "Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided." (ESV)
  • When Jesus was baptized, it says "And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove." (Mark 1:10 ESV)
  • When Jesus was crucified, "... the sun's light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two." (Luke 23:45 ESV) ( The same wording appears in Mark 15:38 and Matthew 27:51 to describe the same event.)
Each of those italicized words above is the same Greek word: schism. In each of these cases, schism is used to describe God at work. So when did schism become a bad thing?

Those who are convinced that this reconfiguration is a "schism" that they must oppose might do well to heed the advice of the Pharisee, Gamaliel: "I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!" Acts 5:38-39 ESV

26 March 2010

I'm back

I have been facebooking for the last 10 months or so. But there are some things that I want to say that do not fit the 4 line format. So in case anyone reads this, I may be here for a while.

I was wandering around in another forum. It was an avowedly "progressive" religious forum, and I was defending a traditionalist point of view.

One of the funniest things about that experience was this: I do not think I ever identified myself as a pastor. They were discussing the association I belong to (and quoting from a Google group I run) so I chimed in to offer facts instead of speculation. Someone learned / knew that I was a pastor and commented on that. Later, another person, who willingly described herself as a medical doctor, complained that I was playing the authority card. I noticed a couple of other things.

First, they really did not want to discuss anything; they wanted an echo chamber.

Second, they were perfectly willing to Google me, look up everything they could about me, and use that as a basis for conversation and attack. But when I tried to Google them, to try and understand their point of view, I realized that ...

Third, of all the people on the list who were making comments, some of them quite nasty, only the blog owner (who has a book to sell) and the conservative / traditionalists were using their real names. Everybody else, including all the "progressives" were using pseudonyms or first names only.

To me, it is a question of integrity as much as courage. If you are going to put it out there, especially if it is unpleasant to someone, own it. Otherwise you are just ...

20 July 2009

Islam: Religion of Peace

From the Jerusalem Post, which published an interview with a member of the Basij, Iran's black shirted stormtroopers:

He said he had been a highly regarded member of the force, and had so "impressed my superiors" that, at 18, "I was given the 'honor' to temporarily marry young girls before they were sentenced to death."

In the Islamic Republic it is illegal to execute a young woman, regardless of her crime, if she is a virgin, he explained. Therefore a "wedding" ceremony is conducted the night before the execution: The young girl is forced to have sexual intercourse with a prison guard - essentially raped by her "husband."

"I regret that, even though the marriages were legal," he said.

Why the regret, if the marriages were "legal?"

"Because," he went on, "I could tell that the girls were more afraid of their 'wedding' night than of the execution that awaited them in the morning. And they would always fight back, so we would have to put sleeping pills in their food. By morning the girls would have an empty expression; it seemed like they were ready or wanted to die.

"I remember hearing them cry and scream after [the rape] was over," he said. "I will never forget how this one girl clawed at her own face and neck with her finger nails afterwards. She had deep scratches all over her."

15 July 2009

Army? We don't need no stinking army!

Apparently, we did not need an entire army to win WW2.

We just needed several Ted Kenna's, strategically place, each with a rifle and one bullet per enemy soldier.

The headline brags about what he did with a Bren gun, but he got really effective when he grabbed a rifle.

On his own initiative and without orders, Kenna stood up in full view of the enemy less than 50 yards away and engaged the bunker, firing his Bren gun from the hip. Fire was returned at once, bullets passing between his arms and his body but somehow missing him. Undeterred, Kenna continued to fire at the enemy until his ammunition was exhausted. He then discarded his Bren gun, called for a rifle and despite intense machine-gun fire killed the enemy gunner with his first round.

When a machine gun opened up on him from a second position, Kenna, who had remained standing, killed the gunner with his next round. The bunker was captured without further loss, the company attack went forward and the enemy position was carried.[Emphasis added]

Rest in peace, hero!

30 June 2009

And they thought W was out of touch?

This little snippet from Obama's energy speech this week:

We know the benefits. In the late 1970s, the state of California enacted tougher energy-efficiency policies. Over the next three decades, those policies helped create almost 1.5 million jobs. And today, Californians consume 40 percent less energy per person than the national average -- which, over time, has prevented the need to build at least 24 new power plants. Think about that. California -- producing jobs, their economy keeping pace with the rest of the country, and yet they have been able to maintain their energy usage at a much lower level than the rest of the country.

Does this man read the news?

As Taranto points out:

We seem to remember hearing stories of "rolling blackouts" in California a few years ago. Today, with unemployment approaching 12%, California's economy is hardly "keeping pace," and the state's fiscal affairs are such a wreck that they almost give New Yorkers reason to feel good about their state's government.
And this from the folks who accused President Bush of being out of touch.

23 June 2009

A Prescription for better health

Since President Obama wants everyone to be in better health, in order to contain costs for national health care reform (cost containment is one of the two "lines in the sand" he has drawn, along with universal coverage), I have a suggestion.

Numerous studies have shown that people who attend religious services once a week live longer and are in better health.

As a cost containment measure, I propose that the Obama administration mandate weekly church attendance.

Is this Love or Just a Confusion?

The local paper carried a story about a singer coming to town to perform. The singer, Namoli Brennet, who is repeatedly and consistently referred to as "she" in the article (it would be redundant to say "small town paper" and "fawning") The singer has released several cd's.

Upon seeing the singer's picture, I was thought her the victim of some cruel divine joke, until I saw that the name of "her" first cd was "Boy in a Dress."



Since our paper is willing to refer to a man as a woman because she feels that way and wants to be called that, I expect that all future references to me will include the honorific, "His Gracious and semi-divine Imperial Majesty" because I am now the Emperor and Demi-god of Wisconsin.

Because I feel that way, and I want to be called that.

And your chauvenistic physiology and reality be darned!

What exactly is going on?

A Flat Tax for California?

The Governator goes back to his roots as a reformer.

Wyden's Third Way

The Oregon senator questions the wisdom of a government health insurance plan.

When did theses guys come to their senses? Wow.

22 May 2009

A Conservative with Smarts ... and Principles

Like most states, Minnesota has been facing a huge budget shortfall -- an estimated $4.6 billion over two years. These dire financial straits didn't deter the DFL-controlled legislature (the DFL is Minnesota's chapter of the Democratic Party), which got to work on big new spending bills. Included were not just the usual increases in appropriations but gems like $1.2 million in grants for TV and film producers and $200,000 for a youth environmental education program. Recession? What recession?

To fill in the hole they'd blown in the upcoming fiscal budget the DFL then proceeded to float every tax hike known to Garrison Keillor. A short list: A new top income tax rate of 9% (the fourth highest in the nation); across-the-board income tax increases; sales taxes on Internet downloads; the end of the local property tax cap (enacted only last year); alcohol taxes; cigarette taxes; eliminating the deduction for an organ donation (no joke); and killing the home mortgage interest deduction.

Throughout this spectacle, Mr. Pawlenty kept voicing three simple principles. "Number one, we must have [because of the constitution] and should have a balanced budget," he told me. "Number two, the state government needs to live within its means, just like everybody else. Number three, we shouldn't raise taxes in the worst recession in 60 years." Minnesota already has one of the highest tax burdens in the nation.

The DFL wasn't listening. As the clock wound down (the session ended at midnight this past Monday), the legislature sent Mr. Pawlenty one large spending bill after another. The assumption was he'd veto them, be forced to call a special session, and then be negotiated into tax hikes. That's when the governor got Minnesota nice.

Upon receiving the last spending bill, he announced that he would exercise the power of "unallotment," which has been on the books since 1939 and which has been used four times. Under it, the governor is allowed to "unallot" (take away) any state spending for which there is no money to pay. Panicked, the DFL passed tax legislation to cover its blowout spending bills, 10 minutes before the session's end. Too late. The governor said he'd veto the bill and would not be calling back the legislature to do any more mischief.

Mr. Pawlenty is now free to strip $2.7 billion from state spending to balance the budget. Tax hikes are dead.

Go Tim Go!


I never actually saw the movie whose poster is above. Just missed it I guess.

But apparently these little creatures are guilty of more than should be seen in a family movie:

Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer Monday came up with a new explanation for the prostitution scandal that forced him out of office: It was the gremlins!

Discussing his propensity for high-priced hookers in detail for the first time, Spitzer told Matt Lauer on the “Today” show: “I have tried to address these gremlins and confront them.”

I wonder if his poor wife is buying that ...

14 April 2009

Except When They Do

When in seminary, most of us are required to go through something called Clinical Pastoral Education. CPE usually involves assignment to an institution such as a hospital, nursing home, hospice, etc. In the program, you function as a chaplain and spend time in small groups evaluating your experience. Some people hate it; apparently some programs are awful; many of us found it useful.

I have a friend who described a colleague who faced this situation: a baby was born at a Catholic hospital. For what ever reason, the baby was in distress following delivery. The nurses did what nurses in Christian hospitals have done for a very long time when a baby is in distress and possibly about to die: they baptized him. This is in keeping with the institution's faith and mission.

Fortunately this baby recovered. At the time of discharge, the parents were given all the paperwork and the newborn kit, and the discharge nurse said, "and here is his baptism certificate." The parents looked at the nurse in horror. "We are Jewish."

Now first, this is a major "oops." But one of the CPE students was assigned by the chaplain to write a letter to the parents stating that nothing had happened except that some water had been put on the child's head with an eye dropper.

I would've failed that CPE unit. I would have written a letter that said, " Christians believe that baptism is efficacious because Jesus is Lord. If you do not believe that Jesus is Lord, then you cannot believe that baptism is efficacious. If you are concerned about your child was baptized, then apparently, on some level, you must believe that Jesus is Lord."

Okay. Maybe I wouldn't have written exactly that. But that's the sentiment that I would like to convey, and I could not have written the letter the CPE student was assigned to write.

The story came to mind when I read about this in England.

More than 100,000 Britons have recently downloaded "certificates of de-baptism" from the Internet to renounce their Christian faith... John Hunt, a 58-year-old from London and one of the first to try to be "de-baptised," held that he was too young to make any decision when he was christened at five months old. The male nurse said he approached the Church of England to ask it to remove his name. "They said they had sought legal advice and that I should place an announcement in the London Gazette," said Hunt, referring to one of the official journals of record of the British government. So that's what he did -- his notice of renouncement was published in the Gazette in May 2008 and other Britons have followed suit.

My response? Well, Christians believe that baptism is efficacious because Jesus is Lord. If you do not believe that Jesus is Lord, then you cannot believe that baptism is efficacious. If you are concerned about your child was baptized, then apparently on some level, you must believe that Jesus is Lord.

After all, if there is no God, then what happened to these people was nothing more substantial than when small children decide to form a secret club and enact some silly, childish ritual by which one becomes a member of the club. But if Jesus is Lord, and you don't like that, then your baptism actually makes a difference ... but only if Jesus is Lord!

Which means that if you're going to the trouble of having yourself and de-baptized, you are not an atheist, but a rebellious Theist.

You see, atheists don't believe in God ... except when they do.

There was one other interesting statement in the article linked above:

Michael Evans, 66, branded baptising children as "a form of child abuse" -- and said that when he complained to the church where he was christened he was told to contact the European Court of Human Rights.

This brought to mind the words of James Taranto, author of the Best of the Web Today column at Wall Street Journal online:
We are not a religious believer. What's more, we used to be a militant atheist, from roughly age 5 through 17, when we realized that militant atheism is silly and that being a militant atheist is tantamount to, well, being a jerk...Now, it's true that religious people can be jerks too...But one can at least understand the overeager Christian: He thinks he's trying to save your soul. The militant atheist wants to make sure you know you don't have a soul.

Why the Left Scares Me!

Actually, kudos to Senator Charles Schumer for telling the truth: the "progressive"/Democratic Left despises traditional values and President Obama is "going to talk bipartisanship to the American people" but do something completely different.

Freedom Isn't Free

Marilee Carlson wrote a piece in the WSJ on the cost of the war in Iraq, which included the life of her son. She closes with these poignant and powerful words:

In America, we often think that this transformation happened solely by the work of our American heroes. But the Iraqi people have worked very hard to transform their country and to take back control.

I remember meeting Brig. Gen. Ismael Alsodani, the Iraqi defense attaché, when he visited Arlington National Cemetery and Michael's grave last year. He leaned next to my older son, Dan, and said, "I've lost my brother too."

Those five words changed Dan's life. He had been living in a chasm of grief for Mike, and suddenly his perspective opened up. He was able to look beyond his personal grief and recognize all who have fought for freedom in our country, in Iraq, and around the world.

Our military is the most effective military in the world. We give thanks to each and every man and woman who has served and helped to change the world in which we live. They have given hope for the new Iraq and for the future of its people.

Many have died for the sake of our freedom. May their memories be a blessing among us.

12 April 2009

Appropriate for Easter

This was sent to me by a friend who served as a POW for 6 years in the midst of his USAF career. It seemed best reproduced in its entirety.

Sunday morning at the Hanoi Hilton was church time. To gather our “congregation,” the Senior Ranking Officer (SRO) tapped “cc,” quietly on his wall. Each cell in turn tapped “cc,” and soon all have been alerted to Church Call. The service was a prayer and a reciting of Bible verses. If I was lucky, I was in a cell with one or two other POWs, and we could pool our knowledge of the Bible.

A failed rescue attempt led to the most memorable of our church experiences. It happened on November 20, 1970, when U.S. Special Forces staged a mission to rescue the POWs believed to be at Son Tay, one of the small prisons the North Vietnamese maintained outside Hanoi. The raid was brilliantly planned and executed perfectly. Our men landed at the prison in helicopters and came home without the loss of a single American. There was only one problem: All the POWs had been moved out of Son Tay about four months before the rescue effort so none of us went back with our rescuers. The mission still turned out to be a huge success for us, however.

Realizing that such rescue attempts could happen again, the North Vietnamese brought us in from outlying prison camps into the main Hoa Lo prison in Hanoi: the Hanoi Hilton. Within hours of the raid, we were moved into large cells — 43 of us in my cell. It was the greatest day of our prison life. For the first time, we were meeting POWs whose names we had memorized years earlier. Many of us had formed intense friendships through the tap code with men we’d never seen. As we met that night, “So this is what you look like” was heard over and over throughout the cell.

We compared our treatment, and it seemed important to each of us to tell one another of our torture experiences. I’ve never seen more empathy in anyone’s eyes than when telling a fellow POW about being tortured. We each needed to tell our torture story — once. We never told them again to the same POW.

The handshakes, back slapping, and bear hugs went on and on. Some of us had been tortured for the protection or benefit of a “tap-code buddy.” Now there was love and respect to be repaid. No one slept that first night; too much joy, excitement, and talk. The next morning, we needed to determine the SRO. The highest rank in our cell was O-4, which is a major. (“O” stands for officer, so O-1 is second lieutenant or ensign, O-2 first lieutenant, O-3 captain, O-4 major, O-5 lieutenant colonel, O-6 colonel, O-7 brigadier general, and on up to O-10 for a four-star general.) We put all the O-4s together and then compared the date when the rank was attained and arrived at a hierarchy. We did the same with the O-3s, the O-2s, and the O-1s. When we were done, all 43 of us knew exactly where we stood in the command structure.

Our SRO turned out to be Ned Shuman — a really good Naval aviator. The first Sunday in the large cell, someone said, “Let’s have church service.” Good idea, we all agreed. One POW volunteered to lead the service, and we started gathering in the other end of the long rectangular cell from the cell door. No sooner had we gathered than an English-speaking Vietnamese officer who worked as an interrogator burst into the cell with a dozen armed guards. Ned Shuman went to the officer and said there wouldn’t be a problem; we were just going to have a short church service.

The response was unyielding: We were not allowed to gather into groups larger than three persons and we absolutely could not have a church service.

During the next few days we all grumbled that we should not have backed down in our intention to have a church service and ought to do it the coming Sunday. Toward the end of the week, Ned stepped forward and said, “Are we really committed to having church Sunday?”

There was a murmuring of assent throughout the cell. Ned said, “No, I want to know person by person if you are really committed to holding church.”

We all knew the implications of our answer: If we went ahead with the plan, some would pay the price — starting with Ned himself because he was the SRO. He went around the cell pointing to each of us individually. “Leo, are you committed?” “Yes.” Ned then moved to Jim and asked the same question. “Yes,” Jim responded. And so on until he had asked each of us by name.

When the 42nd man said yes, it was unanimous. We had 100-percent commitment to hold church next Sunday. At that instant, Ned knew he would end up in the torture cells at Heartbreak. It was different from the previous Sunday. We now had a goal, and we were committed. We only needed to develop a plan.

Sunday morning came, and we knew they would be watching us again. Once more, we gathered in the far end of the cell. As soon as we moved together, the interrogator and guards burst through the door. Ned stepped forward and said there wouldn’t be a problem: We were just going to hold a quiet ten-minute church service and then we would spread back out in the cell. As expected, they grabbed Ned and hauled him off to Heartbreak for torture.

Our plan unfolded. The second ranking man, the new SRO, stood, walked to the center of the cell and in a clear firm voice said, “Gentlemen,” our signal to stand, “the Lord’s Prayer.” We got perhaps halfway through the prayer, when the guards grabbed the SRO and hauled him out the door toward Heartbreak.

As planned, the number three SRO stood, walked to the center of the cell, and said, “Gentlemen, the Lord’s Prayer.” We had gotten about to “Thy Kingdom come” before the guards grabbed him. Immediately, the number four SRO stood: “Gentlemen, the Lord’s Prayer.”

I have never heard five or six words of the Lord’s Prayer — as far as we got before they seized him — recited so loudly, or so reverently. The interrogator was shouting, “Stop, stop,” but we drowned him out. The guards were now hitting POWs with gun butts and the cell was in chaos.

The number five ranking officer was way back in the corner and took his time moving toward the center of the cell. (I was number seven, and not particularly anxious for him to hurry.) But just before he got to the center of the area, the cell became pin-drop quiet.

In Vietnamese, the interrogator spat out something to the guards, they grabbed number five SRO and they all left, locking the cell door behind them. The number six SRO began: “Gentlemen, the Lord’s Prayer.” This time we finished it.

Five courageous officers were tortured, but I think they believed it was worth it. From that Sunday on until we came home, we held a church service. We won. They lost. Forty-two men in prison pajamas followed Ned’s lead. I know I will never see a better example of pure raw leadership or ever pray with a better sense of the meaning of the words.

— Leo Thorsness is author of Surviving Hell: A POW's Journey, from which this chapter is excerpted.