Saturday, March 22, 2003

Morning Musings-There was a plaque at my grandparent's cottage that read "Everything I like is either illegal, immoral, or fattening." This jogged that memory
In Geneva, the World Council of Churches called the assault "immoral, illegal and ill-advised."
At least our war with Iraq is fat-free. Here's a good counterpoint from the National Post's Christie Blatchford
Those opposed to this one will say, as New Democrat leader Jack Layton said yesterday, about the explosions being shown again and again from the centre of Baghdad, that you can't have bombs without civilian casualties and will proclaim, as he did, "The death toll is rising!" Those like me will see, in the clear care that the Yanks and Brits are taking to minimize those casualties, that this war is curiously moral in its very own distinct 21st century manner.
Michigan State got through to the second round last night, although our local CBS affiliate was carrying the Louisville-Austin Peay (great name for a Texas porta-potty supplier) game. In Spudlet's prediction game, I'm tied with Careaga and Holtsberry with 26 games picked. Spuds doesn't have Andrew's second-rounders in, but Kevin has the inside track. Two of my bracket winners (Southern Illinois and St. Joseph's) got knocked off while one of Kevin's (Dayton) failed to survive the first round. However, a MSU win over Florida could even that up.

Told Ya So-Novemeber 7th-"... having a solid success in Iraq will shut up a lot of the Euroweenies and their allies around the world, will lower oil prices and give the world economy a boost of confidence. Right now, Tommy Franks can do more to boost our economy than Alan Greenspan can." Yesterday-
World oil prices fell steeply on Friday as traders absorbed news of the US-led sweep across Iraq. The slide in prices reflects the view on the trading floor that the war will end quickly and the US will win.... New York's benchmark light sweet crude dropped $1.21 to $26.91 a barrel, marking a slump from last month's peak of $39.99 to its lowest level this year.
I'm not sure if anything will shut up the Paleoeuropeans, but the rest seems to be holding true.

A Meditation on Shekinah-I've gotten a couple of Google hits on "shock and awe shekinah" and realized that I didn't do the subject justice Thursday. This web site has a good description of the Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Covenant was located.
The inner room was where YHWH made His presence known. Theologians call that presence the SHEKINAH, which is a noun form of the Hebrew word SHAKAN (to dwell). God said He would dwell in the tabernacle and when it was dedicated YHWH's glory filled it. Only the high priest could enter the awesome inner room and only once a year.- the Day of Atonement. Then he had to take with him the blood of sacrificed animals both for his own and the people's sins.
Only the high priest could enter into His presence and then only once a year. However, when Jesus was crucified, the veil between the Holy of Holies and the rest of the temple was both figuratively and literally ripped in two; now everyone can enter into God's presence and not just the high priest. One thing that struck me was how nonchalantly I took that presence. The Holy Spirit gives us a controllable 24/7 version of that presence of God. The full treatment can kill an unworthy soul, but a lower-dose treatment can help guide people to where they should go.

Edifier du Jour-Psalm 41:1-3(NASB)
1 How blessed is he who considers the helpless; The LORD will deliver him in a day of trouble. 2 The LORD will protect him and keep him alive, And he shall be called blessed upon the earth; And do not give him over to the desire of his enemies. 3 The LORD will sustain him upon his sickbed; In his illness, You restore him to health.
How do we concider the helpless? That has a lot of permutations. Looking after the handicapped and looking after children come to mind, but this need not just be a proof-text for a social gospel. We should also be looking after the unborn, the senile and the terminally ill, who are targets for elimination in a society looking to cancel negative net present value projects. They all have value in God's sight and need to be protected. We should also be looking after people in prison. Ministry to inmates will help them turn their life around; you've got a place where people pretty much know they're sinners and just need to know that they can be/are forgiven. We should also be looking after the needs of people living under oppresive regimes overseas. We have to avoid hubris here, but there are plenty of other places around the world where some shock and awe would be called for. Pray that Iraq isn't the last regime change we pull off.

Friday, March 21, 2003

Afternoon Musings-Vocabulary lesson for the day-coup de main-"A sudden action undertaken to surprise an enemy." Perry de Havilland says we pulled one off in Basra. Wall Street likes Shock and Awe; the DJIA went up 180 points. Oh, so Monsieur Chirac doesn't want us running Iraq? He who pays for the band gets to pick the playlist, and you didn't chip in, Jacques. If you don't recognize the government, that means more business for us.

Shock and Awe-It happened in the last hour when my Micro class heard there was a 12-point curve on their last exam. Oh, the good guys are bombing the heck out of Baghdad? The surrender telethon is on; operators are standing by. "We're getting surrenders faster than we can handle them." If you get a busy signal, walk away from your tank and call back later. We'll return you to Yanni at Royal Albert Hall once we get 10 divisions to sign up at the 200-soldier level.

Midday Musings-We're seeing a traditional holidy on most college campus, where students take the high holy day of St. Friday of Spring Break off. The bare majority (7 of 12) that did show up to my Personal Finance class got treated to this Powerpoint slide in my retirement planning lecture
Rollover IRAs
Retirement plan for your dog; they can start making withdrawals at age 8.5 (59.5 in dog years).
I also got to talk some mild smack with Dr. White, a die-hard Gator fan. I reminded him Florida and MSU are bracketed for a second round matchup.
Dr. White-"That assumes that your team wins today." "That also assumes your team wins today."
I am looking forward to a week without anything official to do. I'll be getting a lot of prepping in and taking in a conference at church early in the week.

Finding My War Muse-I haven't been overly eloquent about the war since it started 36 hours ago. After I went back to bed after getting up sweaty and typing up this morning's Edifier, Eileen and I prayed through a gnawing discomfort that I've been feeling all week (and it ain't the flu bug). It felt a bit like buyer's remorse, that the war was on and I was a bit too happy to see it start, but it also sapped my confidence as a professor. It was too general a fear to be of God; if He wants to correct you, he'll let you know what you're feeling bad about. Satan's M.O. is to get you generally upset. A good spiritual diagnostic tool is to think over why you're fearful or upset; if you can't get a straight answer, it probably ain't coming from God. So far, things seem to be going smoothly, as I figured it would. We lost a helicopter with 12 guys on board, 8 of them British, in a non-combat crash in Kuwait (I'm picturing the JAG copy-cat episode with the English naval lawyer, do you make him a suave gentleman or a down-to-earth Arsenal backer) and lost another Marine in actual combat. Saddam seems to be on the run and the troops disorganized; Den Beste points out that the overly centralized Iraqi command structure is a blessing here. We're closing in on Basra, the second city in the south, and the British have taken the Iraqi's lone seaport of Umm Qasr; Lileks has a good riff on the city names looking like something out of a sci-fi movie-"Mos Ai-Zhley will be the next to fall." Lileks had another good one-liner "The dog that has not barked or thrown up on the rug: SCUDs tossed at Israel." There are a number of other mutts that have yet to show their face, like chemical weapons of any sort or wholesale well-burning. The most current number I can find is 30 torched wells. 36 Hours in: so far, so good. The fog of war means that clear information is down to a minimum, where we have a lot of news but not much information. Hopefully we'll start getting more information over the weekend. .

Edifier du Jour-Isaiah 41:8-16(NASB)
8 "But you, Israel, My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, Descendant of Abraham My friend, 9 You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, And called from its remotest parts And said to you, 'You are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you. 10 'Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.' 11 "Behold, all those who are angered at you will be shamed and dishonored; Those who contend with you will be as nothing and will perish. 12 "You will seek those who quarrel with you, but will not find them, Those who war with you will be as nothing and non-existent. 13 "For I am the LORD your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, 'Do not fear, I will help you.' 14 "Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you," declares the LORD, "and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. 15 "Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges; You will thresh the mountains and pulverize them, And will make the hills like chaff. 16 "You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, And the storm will scatter them; But you will rejoice in the LORD, You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.
Eileen and I were reading that passage Wednesday and I couldn't help but put the US in the Israeli role there as we march in with relatively little opposition. I know that's putting my hermeneutics way ahead of my exegesis and verges on some sort of Anglo-Israelism, so I want you to take this with multiple grains of theological salt. To the extent that a country is one the side of the angels, God can make their task smoother and shame the people who oppose you. Whether that is the case with our war with Iraq remains to be seen, but God will help out the good guys. God may not choose sides in a pickup basketball game, but I think He might choose sides where one side is serving His cause, albeit in a flawed way. I think that this is such a time.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Dinnertime Musings-Some interesting basketball; I picked three dogs to win this afternoon, only Gonzaga came through. NC State lost in OT and Southern Illinois was a buzzer-beater away from a win. Interesting crawler on Fox-"If you have to ask, it's not Shock and Awe." Things seem to be going good; there's a minimum of wells burning and no atrocities so far. Keep praying.

Afternoon Musings-I just wandered over to the game room, where the one TV in the student center is located. It was turned, in the proper priorities, to ESPN covering the Cal-NC State game; I guess Dan Rather trumps Dan Patrick. However, duty calls; I had to get back to my office and grade some exams to give back tomorrow. The war seems to have started for real this afternoon. I heard someone say that things would start to roll about 1PM EST, and they have. We've got a few wells burning in southern Iraq, but no big bombshells as of yet. The good news is that I have yet to see any reports of US casualties.

Nervious Musings-A combination of left-over chest congestion from my flu and staying up a bit too late watching the war had me going back to bed and blowing off chapel. I've got a bit of worry in my system. Somehow, I think there's one decent-sized atrocity up the Baathist's sleeve before things are all over. However, I know we're going to win and I know in my heart that it will be for the best. There are no atheists in foxholes, as this Lileks piece of today shows. He starts off with a picture of Slim Pickins riding the bomb down rodeo style from Dr. Strangelove, but when Mr. Mom starts talking about shekinah, things are getting serious.
In any case, it's obvious tonight this isn't SHOCK AND AWE, which brings me to the Library of Congress. Years ago ago I was standing in the LoC, looking up at the glorious ceiling, and I saw a curious phrase painted above: The true shekinah is man. That quote stuck in my mind, because I had no idea what it meant. Later I looked it up. A visible manifestation of the divine presence as described in Jewish theology. Shekinah. Sound it out. Okay, I'm off to the sofa to watch it all. No more tonight; what is there to do but watch and wait. You want something else? Here's some churches to contemplate while we white-knuckle through the next few days. This is a rough version of a site I'll be updating in months to come: postwar modern churches. Only five pages now, more to come. I’m not a praying man. But I am a man, praying. Go figure.
In evangelical circles, you'll hear of God's shekinah glory from time to time. Back when I was working at a hospital, I remember coming across a baby girl names Shekinah. I thought to myself that the mom must of spent some time in church; as a single mom, maybe she didn't spend quite enough time there. .

Edifier du Jour-Psalm 40:1-5(NASB)
I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me and heard my cry. 2: He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. 3: He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear And will trust in the LORD. 4: How blessed is the man who has made the LORD his trust, And has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood. 5: Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders which You have done, And Your thoughts toward us; There is none to compare with You. If I would declare and speak of them, They would be too numerous to count.
I'm not overly eloquent this morning, but this Psalm hit me. The early part of this week wasn't easy for me on a number of levels, and God got me through them. He'll get us out of the tough spots with grace to spare.

Morning Prayers-We've yet to get word on whether the 9:30PM EST bombings got Saddam or not. Pray that this small strike will be all that is needed.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

So Long Mom Remix-As we watch the pre-game show for Gulf War II, here's some music to go with it;severe appolgies to Tom Lehrer
So long Mom, I'm off to drop the bomb so don't wait up for me. Although I may fly many thousand feet high Our good radar kit makes sure they all hit. While the guys are in their humvees, you can watch us on your TVs, and watch us whack Iraqis, as calm as we can be. No need for you to miss a minute of the fastest war in history. Remember Mom I'm off to get Saddam So keep nice and calm and try to smile somehow I'll look for you when the war is over an hour an a half from now

A Half-Century of Bigotry?-David Frum has a opus of a smackdown of paleoconservatives this morning; go grab a big beverage of choice and commence to reading. This didn't stay untouched for long, Davie D and Peter Sean Bradley have already added four cents to the collection. One of the interesting things is the overlapping of paleolibertarian and paleoconservative movements. Paleolibs like Llewellyn Rockwell (did Mr. Frum used Lew's full name to make him sound like some aristocrat of questionable sexual preference) and Justin Raimondo (I hadn't heard of him before I started blogging and he did one of the great trolls of all time) get put in with the paleocons. I'm not sure if the entire paleo endeavor is quite as bigoted as the piece makes them out to be, for Frum's got a half-century of the paleo's most distasteful quotes. Davie seems to have a good framework for discussion, comparing the paleo's Racial Nationalism with Civic Nationalism. There is always a temptation to look towards a small we, and paleocons have a tight definition of American that covers Western European Christianity; people from outside that area are grudgingly welcomed as individuals but not as groups. Civic Nationalism goes for the bigger we, looking at America as a set of ideas rather than an ethnic group. [update 5AM 3/20- What follows is talking about paleocons in general and not any one of Frums targets in particular] Not every paleocon is a bigot; they don't mind the Pakistani doctor or the Hispanic mechanic as individuals, but they're often distrustful of groups outside of standard Euro-American groups. However, they're not comfortable with people from outside their culture. My grandma would say of an well-spoken black "He's not a nig--r." Non-Europeans have to earn their status as American to these old-school folks. Jews get the same treatment; the individual Jew's OK, but the group's not quite trusted. It's more ethnocentrism than racism that seems to be driving the paleos; they don't have a problem with racial and ethnic minorities as long as the blend into the larger culture and don't rock the boat. It's more a culture than the "white race" that they're defending. They may be taken aback if their daughter brings home a black guy from college to meet her parents, but it's a comfort with the known and a discomfort of the foreign (I coined xenoskeptic last year to cover this) that seems to drive them. I can't bash paleocons too much, for my Grandpa Kraenzlein would have qualified as one; I could have easily seen him voting for Buchanan in the '92 primaries (but not in 2000). People are raised with various bigotries; you have to teach people how to be racists, for little kids will see past skin tone until their taught that those other kids are badly different. A lot of paleocons want to get rid of those bigotries, but old habits die hard. Those bigotries seem to be gradually going away, but not as quickly as we'd like.

Out of the Mouths of Babes-Here are two goodies from children. The first is from Louder Fenn's almost-four niece Theresa-
Mother took the sad approach by saying that the war was unfortunate and Americans might get killed by Iraqis. Or something like that; I got this story secondhand from my father. In any event, to the idea that Americans might be killed by Iraqis, Theresa responded: "We just have to kill them first."
Not overly diplomatic, but an appropriate responce to war. It was a classic Patton line that it's not the soldier's job to die for his country; his job is to get the enemy soldier to die for his. A Andrew Sullivan reader had another keeper
My daughter, who just turned seven in January, saw a picture of a women holding up a "No War" sign on the front page of our newspaper. She asked why the women was holding the sign. My wife told here that some people believe that you don't have to fight wars in order to solve the world's problems. My daughter's response? 'Then how do you get the bad guys?'"
Yes, how do you get the bad guys who don't respond to diplomacy? Send that girl to Tom Daschle's office on the double and have her 'splain things to the Senator.

Iraq, Man, and Basketball Jones-The NCAA has elected to keep March Madness on sked. I think that's a good thing. Is the country better off with Dan Rather telling that the war's going faster than a tumbleweed in a hurricane or with some good hoops? Nothing in particular against Gunga Dan, but news junkies can turn to NBC, ABC, Fox or the cable news channels without losing much. If CBS is covering the origional March Madness, it will allow those of use who are newsed out to turn back to normalcy. You can put a crawler on the screen giving the headlines, but give us our hoops. Do we put the rest of our lives on hold while this war occurs? No. I'm planning to lecture on convertable bonds tomorrow even if war breaks out. I'm planning to go to our home group tomorrow night, too. Yes, I'll be watching and reading the news, but life will go on.

Diplomatic Defeat With Dignity-Remind me never to take claudometers to Washington, for politicians like Daschle keep shorting out the thing.
I'm saddened, saddened that this president failed so miserably at diplomacy that we're now forced to war, saddened that we have to give up one life because this president couldn't create the kind of diplomatic effort that was so critical for our country,"
Yes, the president did fail at diplomacy, but you can't get blood from a stone. "Diplomatic sucess" these days translates to "letting the French have their way" which translates to doing next-to-nothing about Iraq. As long as Iraq made some token gestures towards disarmement, we would had the French and Russians blocking more concrete actions. Diplomacy is a means to an end, not an end in itself. The end is a peaceful, more democratic and free world. Diplomacy wasn't getting us there.

Yuppie Evangelism?-CT linked to this Slate piece picking apart the theology of Rick Warren. Some of the passages toward the back seem slanted towards a fire-and-brimstone stereotype.
Warren stands apart from his evangelical forebears in another important respect: At no point does he place the newly minted believer at odds with the secular world's imperfect schemes of justice and reward. Historically, even mildly prophetic Christian revivalists have stressed the mandate of broad social reform—and more fiery ones have triggered full-blown crusades, from abolitionism and temperance down through the latter-day civil rights and anti-abortion movements.
Quite a few revivalists don't fit that mold. Billy Graham comes quickly to mind as a largely apolitical revivalist. The early church was apolitical, ignoring the rulers of the day and focusing on changing lives rather than changing the culture or the political system.
In Warren's hands, however, God seems keen to promote more of a Kiwanis-level social activism: "You may be given a godly passion for reaching a particular group of people with the gospel: businessmen, teenagers, foreign exchange students, young mothers, or those with a particular hobby or sport." Of course, not every revivalist faith needs to be driven by social commitment; a lot of mainline Protestant churches are losing members precisely because they seem tediously bent on advertising their own social righteousness. Nevertheless, there is something important missing from a faith that envisions God directing his servants to settle down among narrow-casted groups of exchange students or hobbyists or Sunday athletes.
Not everyone's going to be an itinerant evangelists. One of the modalities that has come of age in the last quarter century is the concept of "friendship evangelism." Not everyone's going to come to the Lord via some street-corner brimstone-merchant; for those, a longitudinal witness that gradually introduces them to Jesus is more effective. You don't get that witness from doing a little bit to everyone, it requires a focus.
Longtime observers of the evangelical scene speculate that the softness behind the sell helps explain Warren's appeal to the W. White House. Mark Silk, who directs Trinity College's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life, says ministries like Warren's have a special appeal for an administration where "everything is extraordinarily faith-based—not just social service programs." Silk also suggests that Bush well understands that Warren's brand of feel-good evangelism plays well with the mass audience that comes with the bully pulpit of the presidency. "It's a way of doing evangelicalism for people who get scared when they hear it in its unvarnished form."
There is a danger in underselling the concept that we're sinners destined to Hell if we don't turn to Jesus. I remember posting on a verse from Huey Lewis' Jacobs Ladder last year
It's coming over the airwaves. The man says I'm overdue. Sing a song, send some money, join the chosen few. Mister, I'm not in a hurry, and I don't wanna be like you!
Friendship evangelism will get people to see a more comely side of God than the brimstone-merchant.
This, rather than the abundance of marketing techniques and showman gimmicks that inflect Warren's style of self-presentation, is the most troubling feature of Warren's purpose-driven approach. It has historically been the nature of the Christian God to be something of an unstinting task master. Warren's God "wants to be your best friend." And this means, in turn, that God's most daunting property, the exercise of eternal judgment, is strategically downsized.
Most people don't have to be reminded that they're sinners. Most people believe in the concept of Hell. What people need is a way to escape Hell and have a better today as well. Getting past the lighting-bolt-slinging concept of God is required for some people to warm up to him; God ain't Thor. For people who have had harsh parents, a harsh God isn't something that is encouraging. If done poorly, you can turn God into a celestial pushover, accepting any sin and anyone. However, God does want to have fellowship with us, and simply focusing on his judgmental side doesn't do God a service, either.
When Warren turns his utility-minded feel-speak upon the symbolic iconography of the faith, the results are offensively bathetic: "When Jesus stretched his arms wide on the cross, he was saying, 'I love you this much.' " But God needs to be at a greater remove than a group hug. Surely we lose something if we apprehend the Bible, and the language of faith, as little more than a lesson book. "If you're not preaching life application," Warren has told one interviewer, "you're not really preaching." Yet if you're only believing in life application, what are you really believing?
Why does God have to be distant? He can be close yet still be elsewhere at the same time. People get in more trouble by thinking that God is remote than they do when they think that God is near. Here might be the difference between what many in society think religion should be and what evangelicals practice. The mainstream thought wants to think on a macro scale and is uncomfortable with the focus on the individual; they want to change the individual by changing society. The evangelical wants to work from the bottom up, changing society by changing the individual. The God of the individual needs to be a bigger part of the picture than the God of the society.

Edifier du Jour-Galatians 2:19-21
19 "For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. 20 "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. 21 "I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly."
We are guilty of sin under the law, but Jesus' death gave us a loophole to escape through; you can't convict a dead man. We're allowed to write our own death certificate by claiming Jesus as our Savior. By claiming Him, we have died with him from a "legal" standpoint and can't be convicted. We're still sinners, but we get off by dying before we can be put on trial.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Posse of the Willing-Here's the list of 30 countries behind the US
Afghanistan, Albania, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Hungary, Italy, Japan (post conflict), Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, Uzbekistan.
I'm counting 18 ex-Communist governments in that list, countries that know what dictatorial tyranny is like. Pretty much all of Eastern Europe's behind us, plus some conservative governments in Western Europe. Who isn't on board other than France, Germany and Russia? Belgium, Ireland, Scandinavia (less Denmark), Portugal (although they hosted the summit on Sunday) . That could what's left of the EU once the manure hits the fan.

War Musings-Good WaPo poll giving 70%+ approval for Bush's stance on Iraq; Mr. Sullivan had that link, as well as this link showing the British getting behind Blair's stance on the war despite Labour party unrest over Iraq; Social Democrats are strongly opposing the war, but a majority of Labour and Conservative party voter support the war. The Vatican's getting it right, even if it comes off wrong
The Vatican said Tuesday that countries which decided to wage war on Iraq without the consensus of the international community were assuming great responsibility before God and history. "Those who decide that all peaceful means that international law makes available are exhausted assume a grave responsibility before God, their conscience and history," said Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls.
The US and its friends are taking on a grave responsibility. If you're going to war, you're going to break things and kill people, and you'd better be doggone sure you're making the right call. It might be the wrong call in 20-20 hindsight, but it looks like the right call for now, and I'll be comfortable standing before God on it. Not going to Baghdad twelve years ago looked like a good call at the time; that's one that we could have used a mulligan on. However, the people who made the decision felt that a full conquest of Iraq would have been more bother than it was worth. I think Bush 41 can sleep well; even though it proved to be a bad call, it was an honorably bad call. Dubya's taken on this grave responsibility with the proper amount of gravity; he's not trigger-happy, but doing what needs to be done. I'm not sure what to make of this Eastern Rite Catholic bishop, John Michael Botean, who's poised to excommunicate anyone participating in the war (link via the Corner). If he were my bishop, I'd want to be excommunicated. This letter is dated March 7th; I wonder why this took a week to show up on radar.
Beloved brothers and sisters in our Lord, Jesus Christ, Great Lent, which we now begin, is traditionally a time in which we take stock of ourselves, our lives, and the direction in which we are headed. In the common language of the Catholic Church, it is a time for a deep "examination of conscience" as we fast, pray, and otherwise attend to the call for repentance issued by the Church for the forty days before we celebrate the Resurrection of her savior, Jesus Christ. A serious examination of conscience requires that we recognize that there are times in the life of each Christian when one’s faith is seriously and urgently challenged by the events taking place around him or her. Like it or not, these challenges show us just how seriously—or not—we are living our baptismal commitment to Christ. Most of us, most of the time, would prefer to keep our heads in the sand, ostrich-like, than to face truths about ourselves. This is why the Church has found it so vitally necessary to have seasons, such as Lent, during which we must pull our heads out of the sand and take a good, hard look at the world around us and how we are living in it.
So far, so good. Lent gives people who aren't naturally reflective to think about God.
We cannot fail, as we examine our consciences, to take into account the most critical challenge presented to our faith in our day: the fact that the United States government is about to initiate a war against the people of Iraq. For Romanian Catholics who are also United States citizens, this raises an immediate and unavoidable moral issue of major importance. Specifically stated the issue is this: does the killing of human beings in this war constitute murder?
I don't think so, but Mr. Botean's going to disagree.
The Holy Gospels reveal our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ to be nonviolent. In them, Jesus teaches a Way of life that his disciples are to follow, a Way of nonviolent love of friends and enemies. However, since the latter half of the fourth century the Church has proposed standards that, if met, would make it morally permissible for Christians to depart from that way in order to engage in war. These standards have come to be known in popular language as the "Catholic Just War Theory."
Driving the moneychangers out of the temple isn't violent? If he merely shouted them down, the imagery of Revelation 19 shows a Jesus who isn't the second coming of Jimmy Carter
11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. 13 He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. 15 From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. 16 And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS."
That isn't a PC version of Jesus, but it's still a valid one. His first trip was as a lamb, the second will be as conquistador. As far as just war is concerned, Josh Claybourn lays out those standards very well in this post.
According to this theory, if all of the conditions it specifies are adhered to, the killing that is done in fighting a war may be justifiable and therefore morally allowable. This theory also teaches that if any one of the standards is not met, then the killing that occurs is unjust and therefore morally impermissible. Unjust killing is by definition murder. Murder is intrinsically evil and therefore absolutely forbidden, no matter what good may seem to come of it. The Church teaches that good ends do not justify the use of evil means. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states this principle succinctly: "One may never do evil so that good may result from it." (1789) One contemporary example of this would be abortion. Abortion is intrinsically evil; hence regardless of the good that may seem to issue from it, a Catholic may never participate in it.
However, not all killing is unjust. You saw plenty of wars in the Old Testament and capital punishment was built into the Mosaic Law.
Paragraph 2309 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy" (emphasis added). Since war is about the mass infliction of death and suffering on children of God, Christians can enter into it and fight in it only if the war in question strictly meets all the criteria of the just war theory, and only if these same standards are likewise meticulously observed in the course of fighting the war. Vague, loose, freewheeling, conniving, relaxed interpretations of Catholic just war theory and its application are morally illegitimate because of "the gravity of such a decision."
This is pacifism by micromanagement. The war itself might be just, but our Bishop is looking to check every last detail. Was every shot fired with the right intention? Did every counterattack have a reasonable hope of success? Someone's going to be firing a shot in anger or personal vengeance; does that make the whole war unjust? If so, do we have to have an army of warrior-priests with fully purified hearts before a war is justified? I don't think the Hebrew armies of the OT would have pass those tests.
"The evaluation of these conditions of the just war theory for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good," states the Catechism. (2309) However, the nation-state is never the final arbiter or authority for the Catholic of what is moral or for what is good for the salvation of his or her soul. What is legal can be evil and often has been. Jesus Christ and his Church, not the state, are the ultimate informers of conscience for the Catholic. This is why the Church teaches as a norm of conscience the following: "If rulers were to enact unjust laws or take measures contrary to the moral order such arrangements would not be binding in conscience." (Catechism 1903) She also warns "Blind obedience [to immoral laws] does not suffice to excuse those who carry them out" (Catechism 2313). When a moral conflict arises between Church teaching and secular morality, when contradictory moral demands are made upon a Catholic’s conscience, he or she "must obey God rather than man" (Acts 5:29).
That's solid theology, continue
Because such a moment of moral crisis has arisen for us, beloved Romanian Catholics, I must now speak to you as your bishop. Please be aware that I am not speaking to you as a theologian or as a private Christian voicing his opinion, nor by any means am I speaking to you as a political partisan. I am speaking to you solely as your bishop with the authority and responsibility I, though a sinner, have been given as a successor to the apostles on your behalf. I am speaking to you from the deepest chambers of my conscience as your bishop, appointed by Jesus Christ in his Body, the Church, to help shepherd you to sanctity and to heaven. Never before have I spoken to you in this manner, explicitly exercising the fullness of authority Jesus Christ has given his Apostles "to bind and to loose," (cf. John 20:23), but now "the love of Christ compels" me to do so (2 Corinthians 5:14). My love for you makes it a moral imperative that I not allow you, by my silence, to fall into grave evil and its incalculable temporal and eternal consequences. Humanly speaking, I would much prefer to keep silent. It would be far, far easier for me and my family simply to let events unfold as they will, without commentary or warning on my part. But what kind of shepherd would I be if I, seeing the approach of the wolf, ran away from the sheep (cf. John 10:12-14)? My silence would be cowardly and, indeed, sinful. I believe that Christ, whose flock you are, expects more than silence from me on behalf of the souls committed to my protection and guidance.
The grave evil, the wolf, is the government of the United States of America. Not Saddam Hussein, not Osama bin Laden, the US Government.
Therefore I, by the grace of God and the favor of the Apostolic See Bishop of the Eparchy of St. George in Canton, must declare to you, my people, for the sake of your salvation as well as my own, that any direct participation and support of this war against the people of Iraq is objectively grave evil, a matter of mortal sin. Beyond a reasonable doubt this war is morally incompatible with the Person and Way of Jesus Christ. With moral certainty I say to you it does not meet even the minimal standards of the Catholic just war theory.
Note that he doesn't start to show why it doesn't meet just war standards; he merely states that it doesn't. He seems to be of an opinion that no war is just. It would be helpful to see what part of the just war steps aren't met here. Is this a Just Cause? I think so. Stopping a ruthless dictator from threatening the world and from immiserating his people is just. Is there a competent authority? I don't think the UN has been risen to the level of being the only competent authority. A broad coalition of countries looks competent from here. Is there the right intention? There might be some oil greed and some vengeance, but the intentions seem proper. Is war the last resort? Inspections aren't going to get the job done; Saddam doesn't respond to anything but brute force. Is there relative justice? I think we're sufficiently on the side of the angels to justify battle with the Baathists. Is there proportionality? The benefits seem to outweigh the costs when minimizing the threat of WMD and helping the lives of the Iraqi people are combined. Is there a reasonable hope of success?-Hoo-yah!
Thus, any killing associated with it is unjustified and, in consequence, unequivocally murder. Direct participation in this war is the moral equivalent of direct participation in an abortion. For the Catholics of the Eparchy of St. George, I hereby authoritatively state that such direct participation is intrinsically and gravely evil and therefore absolutely forbidden.
Killing members of a dictator's army on the battlefield's as bad a killing an innocent child. OK, let's crank up the rhetoric. Would you excommunicate any member of the government, or just the soldiers in the Gulf?
My people, it is an incontestable Biblical truth that a sin left unnamed will propagate itself with lavish zeal. We must call murder by its right name: murder. God and conscience require nothing less if the face of the earth is to be renewed and if the salvation offered by Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ is to reach all people, including us. We have no choice before the face of God but to speak unambiguously to the moral situation with which we are confronted and to live according to the Will of Him who gazes at us from the Cross (Catechism 1785).
Unambiguously wrong, but never in doubt.
Let us pray for each other and take care of each other in this spiritually trying time. To this end our Church is wholeheartedly committed to the support of any of our members in the military or government service who may be confronted with situations of legal jeopardy due to their need to be conscientious objectors to this war. Let us also pray in earnest with the Mother of God, who knows what it is to have her Child destroyed before her eyes, that the destruction of families, lives, minds and bodies that war unleashes will not take place.
Jesus was killed on the cross for the greater good; had Mary's child not been destroyed, we'd all be on the Highway to Hell. Might not the deaths that come from the war to come also be for the greater good?
Finally, my brothers and sisters in Christ, be assured that Our Lord is aware that our "No" to murder and our prayers for peace are our faithful response to his desires. He will remember this forever and ever, and so it is to him we must now turn, in him we must now trust. Amen. Sincerely in Christ-God,+ John Michael (Most Reverend) John Michael Botean a sinner, bishop
"a sinner, bishop." I'll buy that.

Big Guppy in a Small Pond?- This piece on a Twin Cities Christian radio station (link from CT) points to a new demographic block "'Guppies', or God-fearing Urban Professionals. In most media markets, there's room for the more traditional sermon-driven preacher shows as well as the "Positive Hits" style of Christian radio. However, if you have to water down the message for the non-born-again third of the audience, you might miss out on a full presentation of the Gospel in the process. Do we want a channel that's "safe for the whole family" or something that challenges the listener to rethink things and turn closer to God? There's a certian amount of marketing that is honorable, but the key is what you're trying to sell. There's enough of a market for light CCM from more-secular refugees from the lust-driven Top 40. The old saw in the CCM industry is that it is hard to bring the Cross over when you crossover. The danger to Christian radio is that they will be tempted to go lighter on songs that challenge the listener to get right with God so as to not tick off the marginal listener.

Morning Musings-Still recovering from this flu bug-at least I'm not in fellowship with the porcelain gods anymore, but I'm in that gone-ten-rounds-with-[insert heavyweight champ]-and-lost recovery mode. I hope I'm not "out for the duration", for I'm slated to lecture on bond duration this afternoon in my Investments class. I'm playing hooky from chapel and resting up at home before belatedly going in to prep for class. The President seemed to do a good job last night, showing the proper amount of reflection and resolve. He chose not to give the UN or the French and Russians both barrels as many would have liked him to do, but he's doing the prudent thing rather than the gut-reaction thing. Giving Saddam 48 hours to leave also gave everyone 48 hours to bug out before the bombs fly. Some interesting fallout from this new form of March Madness (watch your anti-war crowd borrow that), the original form might have to postpone games
[NCAA President Myles] Brand acknowledged Monday for the first time that the NCAA was checking the availability of arenas and hotels for the days after first and second-round games are scheduled to be completed. That would give the officials more flexibility in making a decision about postponements for the basketball tournaments -- and other national championships. "We don't know when it will start, and we have to be respectful of our men and women in uniform," Brand said following an NCAA town hall meeting on sportsmanship that was sponsored by Indianapolis television station WISH. "On the other hand, I think we have to be very careful not to let Saddam Hussein control our lives.
Might I be a bit cynical to point out that the respect the NCAA is more interested in is the respect to CBS and their sponsors who wouldn't be getting all those ads seen if CBS is busy covering the war Thursday and Friday night? Pushing back the start of the tournement keeps those "student"-athletes away from school longer and doesn't aid the war effort.

Edifier du Jour-Galatians 1:6-9
6: I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7: which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8: But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! 9: As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!
The basic message of the Gospel is seemingly too simple to stand by itself; people want to make it say something different. I'm not talking about secondary or tertiary doctrines that believers can agree to disagree about, but distortions of the basic tenant that Jesus died to save sinners who will accept him as Lord and Savior. One way people can alter the Gospel is to make accepting that gift of salvation optional, that you can make your way to heaven even if you don't accept Jesus' lordship. That's the sin of the theological left. This can be expressed in out-and-out universalism or the more subtle "we're all praying to the same God" routine that assumes that Jews, Muslims and other monotheistic religions are all equally devoted to God. Problem is, there are some less-than-inclusive scriptures, like "I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me." That kinda precludes people from blowing off Jesus and still be heaven-bound. The other major alteration is to add extra conditions to that free gift of salvation. You might require someone be baptized in order to be saved or require that they attend the correct church or not go to movies or not drink alcohol, etc. If universalism is the sin of the left, legalism is the sin of the right. Legalism is often coupled with separatism, where arguments about what a proper life-style is can be raised to the level where the legalist will view the person who would watch a Veggie Tales movie or have a glass of wine with a meal to be preaching a different gospel and be shunned. The left looks for a fallacious inclusion of other religions while the right leans towards a fallacious exclusion of people whose hermeneutics are a bit different than theirs. Both are problems to be wary of as we try to preach the Gospel as Jesus delivered it.

36 Hours To War-For better or worse, it appears that there will be war in Iraq on Thursday, unless God gives Saddam and Uday hankerings for retirement villas on the French Rivera. Everyone over here in the US will be praying for the troops and their families, but let's not forget to pray for the Iraqi people and their leadership.
Pray that the war go cleanly and swiftly. Pray that the leadership doesn't follow through with scorched-earth tactics. Pray that officers get their men to surrender quickly rather than lose lives in a losing and ignoble cause. Pray that the nominal Christians in Iraq turn closer to God and that the Islamic people there see that their faith is misplaced and see Jesus as not just a prophet but God incarnate. Pray that the US and it's allies put its money where its mouth is and actually work to rebuild Iraq into a thriving democracy where all peaceful faiths are welcome. Pray for missionaries and Christian professionals to be called to go to a free Iraq to spread the Gospel further.
These prayers will mean that we can't just take a video-game attitude to watching this war. We need to remember that the Iraqis are people, too, loved by God and worthy of respect.

Monday, March 17, 2003

Evening Musings-Mr Judd beat me to the Nolte-Murphy line by under an hour, for Saddam's got 48 hours. This must come close to the least-publicized St. Patrick's Days I can remember; we have bigger things to worry about whether Irish gays (Patrick Fitzgerald and Gerald Fitzpatrick) can march in the parade. At school, one of the staffers in the Financial Aid office was wearing a green and white striped hat that looked like an Irish Cat in the Hat. Keep your eyes on this killer flu bug, Bene covers the Canadian angle.

The Check-Out Lane-Louder has an interesting extended rant on some politically-incorrect pre-Vatican II prayers (start here and move up; it's a five-part rant) that got in a little Jewish and Muslim-bashing; theologically justifiable but not PC. It's not usually nice to have such a snarky mood, but Kathy Kinsley is giving a Fast For Peace group a once-over, calling for a "Eat Normally for Freedom" counter-protest. Fasting for Victory, anyone? Rantburg's reporting on the Chinese embassy in Baghdad bugging out; you know that our weapons have been know to take out Chinese embassies before by mistake. If the French embassy gets hit, it might not be a mistake.

Midday Musings-Pleasure before business-The NCAA brackets are out, and I might have a fun weekend as we're set for a Florida-MSU second round game. If my budget weren't quite as tight, I'd be tempted to take a road trip to Tampa to check out the games. CMU got an 11-seed, good for a MAC school, and gets Creighton in the first round. Now for the business-we're really heading for war. The US has told the UN/French where they can stick it. People are bugging out of Iraq and Kuwait and the State Department told Americans to bug out of Israel. 8:00PM EST-Dubya on the tube. Will the bombs be airborne before or after he talks? My money's on before, so get your news channel of choice at the ready this dinnertime. Does she get 72 virgins?-an American "human shield" got schmucked by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza, killing her. I'm not sure if a more peaceful Israeli response would be helpful, for it would only encourage the shields from blocking their military activities.

Edifier du jour-Matthew 18:1-6(NASB)
1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" 2 And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, 3 and said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 "Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 "And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
I'm to tender-hearted to fit in easily to the world; what they call "transparent" on a men's retreat comes across as a weird crybaby to the world. I've always felt so immature and self-centered that, despite being 41, I didn't seem to be eligible for a men's retreat. However, the other people around me at the retreat this weekend weren't any better off than me. When you get the facades off, they're just as wounded as I and and even more childish. However, they (and I) need to work on being childlike, open and transparent. When we are open and childlike, we can sit on Abba Daddy's lap; the Aramaic "abba" translates better into modern English as an intimate Daddy rather than a distant Father. We can't sit on God's lap easily as self-sufficient adults, but we can do so as a child.

Flu Bug-I'm walking wounded this morning with an intestinal flu bug that hit just as I was getting home from the retreat yesterday afternood. Instead of spending quality time with Eileen, I spend quality time with my pillow and the porceline dieties Ralph and Earl. Edifier to come towards lunchtime (I slept in until 8:30), after I give my best effort to teach my Personal Finance class.

Sunday, March 16, 2003

Faith at Work in Wartime-This BBC piece tries to bridge the divide of an atheist Brit explaining religious America to fellow secularists. The author has a good closer;
Having made the decision to fight the good fight - and have no doubt about it President Bush has made that decision - the nagging doubts, the rational fears, the worldly misgivings - all those things felt so strongly by post-religious Europeans - can be set aside. President Bush looks as tired as Prime Minister Blair sometimes, but never as worried. Both are religious men but the simple American faith - with heaven and hell, good and evil and right and wrong - appears rather better suited to wartime conditions.
Those doubts, fears and misgivings don't go away, but their lessened if you think you've prayed things through and think your doing the right thing

Morning Musings-One of the wierd things about Google is that you can track down those jokes that you caught part of. For instance, we caught the tale end of a version of this "magic beer" joke at another group's bonfire last night; given that we're at a Episcopal camp, there are a lot more secular people here. The version we heard had the gal fell 30 stories rather than 30 feet and Superman was a "jerk." I also was able to track down a "I come before to stand behind you" verse my mother-in-law was struggling to remember. The loud-mouth paleocons here in the lobby aren't going to like it, but it looks like we're heading to war in the next few days. Den Beste lays out a good case here for war within hours rather than days.

Edifier du Jour-Galatians 6:1-5(NASB)
1 Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. 2 Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. 5 For each one will bear his own load.
We're not good as Lone Ranger Christians. When we have a brother in Christ that can help us bear our burdens, our burdens get lightened. I'm not sure if this is going to continue when we climb down from the mountaintop of a retreat, but I'm seeing a lot of guys have burdens lifted this weekend. The trick to that kind of brotherhood (or siblinghood to extend this to everyone) is to learn how to do this 24/7/365. It's easy to have a prayer session at a retreat or to have a killer alter call to pray through things, but to be able to have people to lean on day-by-day is hard.

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