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.

08 April 2009

Obamisms 2

This one goes back to the campaign, but it simply did not get enough attention.

As Oprah said, this man has a new vision for America.

In other words, watch out Canada!

07 April 2009

Why is GM in trouble?

Radaronline.com has this picture. The cars lined up in the parking lot are:

From left: Acura, Saab, Saturn, VW, Hummer, Chevy, Buick, Ford and Mercedes.

The building behind is a the GM Technical Center in Warren, Michigan.

Guess those engineers want to drive quality cars.

06 April 2009

The Finale

Several years ago I stopped watching ER. It didn't really jump the shark, but sometime after the death of Dr. Mark Greene, I just got bored with the characters, especially the new ones and the soap opera feel it took on.

It was a show with some great moments. Probably my very favorite sequence in the entire show was the series of episodes around Bishop Stewart, played by James Cromwell, in which the character of Luca confronted his faith and the issues around the death of his family. It was very well done, and represented some of the best theology on TV in a long time.

I thought that the finale episode was all well and good. A little odd to have Carter hanging around the ER that much when it didn't work there, but you have to suspend disbelief.

The one thing that I found disturbing was that they had an hour of reflections by present and former cast members that ran before the finale. With the exception of Julia Margulies, they only interviewed actors who play doctors. They left out the fact that there are at least six characters that IMDB reports were present on the series for all 15 years of the show: Jerry, Frank, and the nurses, Lydia, Haleh, Malik, Lily & Chuney. So here is a tribute to them, including one of the prettiest women on television, Laura Ceron, at the far right, who played Chuney.

Apparently Even Episcopalians Have Lines they Won't Cross

Who would've guessed?
The Episcopal Church has defrocked Ann Holmes Redding, the Seattle Episcopal priest who announced in 2007 that she is both Christian and Muslim...

Redding, who had formerly served as director of faith formation at St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral on Capitol Hill, announced in June 2007 that for more than a year, she had also been a Muslim — drawn to the faith after an introduction to Muslim prayers moved her profoundly.

It was an announcement that perplexed many, though Redding said she didn't feel a need to reconcile all the differences between the two faiths, believing that at the most basic level they are compatible.

Yes, that's right. The Episcopal Church church has finally found something intolerable! This may actually represent a breakthrough for TEC.

On the other hand, it is sufficient commentary on the dismal state of theological education in the mainline denominations that this woman could serve as "director of faith formation" at a cathedral church, and believe that Islam and Christianity are "at the most basic level... compatible."

One step forward, three steps back.


The press never tired of logging and recording "Bushisms" in order to further the notion that President Bush was somehow stupid.

I think it is time to start doing this with Pres. Obama, since it is clear that the press, which is still carrying a torch for him, is unlikely to be fair and balanced in this matter. So today we begin a series.

From the Associated Press:

Obama said he was "extraordinarily impressed" by the quality of leadership he witnessed at the organization's 60th anniversary meeting.

"It was also interesting to see that political interaction in Europe is not that different from the United States Senate," said Obama, a former senator. "There's a lot of — I don't know what the term is in Austrian — wheeling and dealing, and, you know, people are pursuing their interests, and everybody has their own particular issues and their own particular politics."

That's right, Austrian. I wonder if this is just the President's impression that Austrians speak Austrian, or if this is a staff issue as well. Can you imagine the poor staffer running around frantically before the president's first Latin America trip trying to find translators who speak Mexican, Brazilian and Uruguayan?

Hat tip: Best of the Web Today

03 April 2009

Wobal Glarming

Let me say two things about the subject of environmentalism.

First, I do not believe that we should wantonly abuse the planet or its resources. I believe in conservation. I believe that the Genesis text calls us to be stewards, not exploiters, of the world. I do not litter. I recycle. I print on the back of old paper before I throw it away.

Second, I have, seen no evidence that leads me to believe that human beings are the primary cause of the so-called climate chaos/global warming that many claim is the apocalypse that man is bringing upon himself. I believe that much of the so-called green movement, and the environmentalists and the global warmists are a mask for an extreme left socialist agenda. This is not an original idea; I first heard it from Vaclav Klaus, president the Czech Republic.

Much of what passes for environmentalism holds a disdain for other human beings and the tremendous amount of illogic... or hypocrisy. I recall being at a Bonnie Raitt concert at the Target Center in Minneapolis a number of years ago. Between songs, as part of her shtick, she stood there and railed against nuclear power. Of course, she was doing this building electric heat, speaking over electric power amplification system, lit up by electric lights, and 24% of Minnesota's electricity comes from three nuclear power plants.

The environmental left does not want us to burn coal, does not want us to damn streams, is afraid that wind turbines are going to kill bats and birds and does not want nuclear. I have not seen any of them turning off all their lights.

one of the benefits of putting that silly widget on the side of my blog has been exposure to the blog Death By a Thousand Papercuts. In a recent post he links to two articles, and you can follow the links from the blog link above. The headlines tell the story for this post:

The Available Evidence Does Not Support Fossil Fuels as the Source of Increasing Concentrations of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide


Ozone Hole Fluctuations Caused By Cosmic Rays, Not Chlorofluorocarbons?

Like I said, I've seen no evidence, and after all these years I'd think they'd be chomping at the bit to show us some if they had it.