Saturday, January 30, 2010

Hasn’t a U. S. Airliner Already Been Blown Out of the Sky by Al Qaeda Terrorists?

With all of the hoopla surrounding the so-called "underwear bomber" you would think that more people might be aware of the fact that a fully loaded 747 airliner has already been blown out of the U. S. skies by al Qaeda terrorists.

You don't believe me? Perhaps you don't remember the particular incident about which I am speaking? Or maybe you do remember it, but you've never really cared enough about it to study it? I'll admit, it's a lot easier to simply believe what the government and the media tell us, but if you remember the incident at all (as I do) you will remember just how shady the whole thing was—even in the mainstream media—at the time it occurred.

I'm talking about TWA flight 800, which went down, mysteriously, just after departing JFK International Airport (Long Island, New York) on July 17, 1996 killing all 230 persons on board (including an entire high school French Club—killing sixteen teenaged students and five adults—from Pennsylvania, who were on their way to Paris).

At the time, many people nearby witnessed what appeared to be a missile streaking toward the doomed airliner, which was reported by the mainstream media at the time, and there is a very good book about this too, which I've read, but I simply don't believe that a missile is what took that airliner down.

I agree with investigative journalist Peter Lance, who has written three books referencing the TWA flight 800 incident (in the broader context of his overall investigation of 9/11); the third of which I am currently reading, having already read his first two books. (Before you think I'm a crackpot, I will ask you: "Have you bothered to read his books? Do you even care enough to read them?" Lance is a first-rate—five-time Emmy Award winning—investigative reporter and, I assure you, he's no kook.)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Review of the Book: Touched With Fire

Last night I finished reading Kay Redfield Jamison's book: Touched With Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament, and I would like to share with you some of the things that I've learned from her book.

Jamison makes it clear that many people with extraordinary artistic abilities were (or are) manic-depressive, and that the manic-depression they suffered from no doubt contributed—positively—to their creative works. She also points out that, for the average person (meaning those who are not especially gifted with high intellectual and creative abilities), manic-depression can simply be a destructive and debilitating condition which interferes with their otherwise average and ordinary lives.

Jamison studies, at length, the lives of many famous artists (mostly writers) whose works have undoubtedly been influenced, positively, by their having been (most of the artists' lives she studies are now dead) manic-depressive. What I found fascinating was just how similar these artists experience with manic-depression, as related to us by Jamison, in their words, mirrors my own experience.

Jamison makes a good case by showing how these artists' manic-depression gave them an unusual ability to create works of art that were (or are) exceptionally transcendental in character because it gave them the ability to create, from both extremes of mania and depression, especially creative and holistic visions of the world as they perceive it to be. Without the two extremes of manic-depression, Jamison doubts that these artists' works would have been as inspired and inspirational to others as they are. These artists' manage to create—from of the depths of their despair and from the highs of their mania (or hypomania)—works of art that transcended the world as it is perceived by most people.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Jesus and Violence

I was talking with someone the other day, discussing violence—as in anti-abortion violence—and this person said to me (as many people do) that Christians should never do anything violent, because Jesus never did anything violent. I said "You've never read the New Testament have you?" They said "No." This much was obvious to me.

Contrary to popular opinion, all four Gospels record Jesus acting violently; on one, particular occasion:

"And Jesus entered the temple of God and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons." Matthew 21:12

"And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he taught, and said to them, 'Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations'? But you have made it a den of robbers'." Mark 11:15-17

"And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, 'It is written, 'My house shall be a house of prayer'; but you have made it a den of robbers.'" Luke 19:45-46

"The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers at their business. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all, with the sheep and oxen, out of the temple; and he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, 'Take these things away; you shall not make my Father's house a house of trade.' His disciples remembered that it was written, 'Zeal for thy house will consume me'" John 2:13-17

This account, of Christ's cleansing of the temple, is, in John's gospel, especially detailed.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Rescue Those Who Are Being Taken Away to Death

"Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, 'Behold, we did not know this', does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not requite man according to his work?" (Proverbs 24:11-12)

Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. What have you ever done to end legalized abortion in the U. S.? Anything?

Or do you just turn your head away from it, avert your eyes from it, and close your minds to what's really going on?

Life is precious, especially the lives of the most vulnerable people in our midst: the unborn children. Do you realize that God holds us accountable for what goes on in our society? That if we do nothing to stop the evil of abortion on demand in our society we will be judged as evil doers, as though we ourselves had committed the evil act?

Christians often think that sinful actions are always just that: actions. But inaction, especially when people are being slaughtered, is a sinful act too. Doing nothing to end abortion, acting as if there's nothing we can do about it, and deluding ourselves into ignoring it are sins of the worst kind.

Do you realize that people are being slaughtered? 4,000 people a day? Does it bother you? Do you even care? Are you now or have you ever done anything to end legalized abortion on demand in the U. S.? I strongly suggest that you do, because God judges both for our actions and our inactions. Do you act as though you don't know that babies are being slaughtered? Do you act as though you do know? Know this: we will be judged according to our actions, whether good, bad, or, as in this case, indifferent.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Christ’s Resurrection From the Dead

The resurrection of Christ from the dead is the most important aspect of the gospel. If Christ is not raised, then we remain in our sins (see: 1 Cor. 15). Why then do Christians so often seem to totally forget about the resurrection? Occasionally, I will hear (on the radio) "the gospel" presented without any mention of the resurrection whatsoever. For example, have ever you heard the radio ads for 1-800-NEED HIM? The ads always exhort the listener to turn to Christ, because he died for us. Jesus is there, this group asserts, ready to hear the listener's prayers, because he died for them. And that's it: Jesus died for you so that you can have a relationship with him. So, my question, whenever I hear this sort of thing, is: How does one have a dynamic, living relationship with a dead guy?

If you study the book of Acts, you will find that every presentation of the gospel includes, at the end of the presentation, a declaration that God has raised Jesus Christ from the dead. There is no example, in the Bible, of the preaching of the gospel without the preaching also of the resurrection of Christ; and the call to repentance. Why, then, do so many Christians neglect the resurrection altogether?

The resurrection of Christ from the dead is scientifically impossible. It could not have occurred, period. Perhaps, in the backs of our minds, we know this; and we know how absurd we will sound if we preach as true something which is impossible; scientifically speaking. When Paul preached the gospel to the Athenians, who had gathered on Mars Hill to hear his message, the majority of them rejected his message when they heard (from Paul) of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This teaching, of the resurrection, was, to these people, ridiculous (see: Acts 17:22-34). Paul, when he was brought before Felix, even went so far as to say that it was: "With respect to the resurrection of the dead I am on trial before you this day" (Acts 24:20).

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Touched with Fire

I came to a realization about myself yesterday, which probably surprised me a lot more than it may surprise those of you who know me. I wasn't actually certain about it until today, but I realize, now, that I am best described as being manic-depressive.

Like I said, those of you who know me are probably not surprised by this (what was to me a) revelation.

I don't care for the term bipolar; I never have, because the term itself is nonsensical. The prefix "bi" means "two", and the term "polar" comes from the term "pole" which, in this sort of usage, presupposes the existence of "two" (or "bi") "poles" (right?). So the term "bipolar" actually means: "two two poles", which is just dumb. The term "manic-depression", on the other hand, more accurately describes the "condition". The terms "manic" and "depression" describe what the two poles are, and the term "manic-depression" itself describes a "condition" that exhibits the two extremes of what would otherwise be considered a "normal" (balanced) psyche.

Anyway, I decided yesterday, once I realized what was going on, that I would not seek "treatment" for my "condition". I figure I am who I am and I don't want to change who I am. I do, however, want to be a better person, and I think that if I continue striving to be more like Christ that I will do so. Thanks to his grace and mercy. I would much rather reread Stott's book on The Sermon on the Mount again, which I am doing and I will do again and again if I have to, than to be medicated for the rest of my life. I think such medication would destroy my creativity, meaning me.

According to my research today, I have concluded that I have what is called Bipolar I, which is the worst kind and, to boot, I appear to have it in spades (i.e., with what is known as "multiple episodes", which is what's been happening lately, especially yesterday). Have I mentioned that I hate the term "bipolar"?

So I'm going to buy a book that I've known about for years but have never read, because I wasn't manic-depressive; or so I thought: Touched With Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament, by Kay Redfield Jamison.

I guess I really do need to read it after all.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Making the Dream a Reality

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a dreamer; a dreamer who undoubtedly believed in natural law. In the U. S., natural law theory has slowly been replaced by the theories of legal positivism and legal realism. In short, natural law theorists believe that a moral standard is built into the natural world by the Creator and that humankind therefore has moral standards that are universal for all peoples and in all cultures. The advocates of legal realism and positive law theorist believe that there are no moral standards built into the natural world and that humankind therefore has no universal moral standard that is valid for all peoples and in all cultures.

Thank God for someone like Dr. King, who held America's feet to the fires of its natural law-based legal documents: The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. In his "I Have a Dream" speech, Dr. King told Americans that: "When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness….Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Is There a New World Coming?

One's view of the future usually determines one's daily actions. If we have hope, and the future looks promising, then we probably have hope for the future. If, on the other hand, we despair, and the future looks bleak, then we will probably have a very low opinion of the future.

As a Christian, I have a particular view of the future; and it's not bleak. That's not to say other Christian's views of the future are as promising; many Christian's believe the world is getting worse and that the end is near. Chaos and confusion, war and pestilence are our only "hopes" for the future. These Christians believe that we are living in the Last Days and that Christ is soon to return to rescue them. To these people, every war—especially a war involving Israel—is simply another "sign" that we are truly living during the end times.

Jesus on Suffering, Evil, and Salvation

People often question why bad things happen to good people. The short, Christian answer to this question is, of course, that there are no good people. All of us are sinners, and we are all saved by God's grace, alone. But people's actions ARE either good or bad, and we ARE responsible for our actions, whether they be good or evil.
Christ, during his ministry, was confronted by people who questioned why bad things (e.g., accidents, murder) happen to people. They asked Christ if these people, who had been so victimized, were worse than other people and if this was the reason for why they had suffered their fates. Christ's response is interesting: he said that "…unless you repent you will all likewise perish."
In other words, it's nothing new to question why God "allows" or causes bad things to happen to people. Jesus dealt with the issue himself, and we would do well to listen to his response. The real danger is not fire, flood, earthquake, war, murder, or oppression; the real danger is rejecting the only hope of eternal life and salvation: Jesus Christ the Son of the Living God.
"There were some present at that very time who told him of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices [a moral evil]. And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered thus? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them [an accident], do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish." (Luke 13:1-5)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Acts of Nature and Acts of the Human Will

Phenomenologically, the death and destruction in Haiti (right photo, January 2010), which was caused by an earthquake, is similar in appearance to the death and destruction in Gaza (left photo, January 2009), caused by the Israeli military.

The death and destruction in Haiti is a tragedy. The death and destruction in Gaza is a crime.

The first is a natural disaster; the second is a moral evil.

Why does God "allow" these things? Indeed, why does God cause these things? In Christian theology, theologians use distinctions between primary and secondary causes regarding all acts, whether natural acts or moral acts. (Just think of the difference between an act of nature and a criminal act). God is the primary cause of all action because he is the creator and sustainer of the world (cosmos). But the world is filled with secondary causes: people, animals, rocks, water, cars, you name it.

An earthquake is the secondary cause of Haiti's destruction, and it is an act of nature. The destruction of Gaza was caused by people and people are responsible moral agents (unlike earthquakes) who, although responsible for their actions, could not have taken them unless God was the (primary) causal agent behind their own free-will (secondary) actions. This is the way theologians split the hair anyway. As the Creator, God is the primary cause of all actions, whether good or evil, yet the moral evil of an evil act cannot be attributed to God; because God cannot be the author of evil. God, above all things, is righteous and just, good and holy.

Anyway……that's the way theologians explain it. In other words, God didn't directly cause the earth to shake and destroy Haiti; the world that God created and sustains is a living world. Literally: the earth moves. Haiti is located in a region of the world where the earth is known to be very active. Israel caused the destruction of Gaza. Israel exploits, oppresses and brutalizes the Palestinians, and yet most of us westerners wonder what all the fuss is about

Where were the U. S. news networks when innocent people were being buried by the Israelis beneath the rubble of their homes in Gaza? Where were the images of the dead children killed by the Israelis?

Where? Al Jazeera.

These two events, as the photos above illustrate, may look (i.e., appear) the same, but one of these acts is a tragedy whereas the other act is a crime.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Natural Disasters, Evil, and God

As the recent earthquake in Haiti reminds us, the earth is not always as stable as we might imagine it to be. Although, in general, it's pretty darn stable. If it weren't, we'd never build any buildings to live in for fear they would fall upon us. We would live out in the open, much like people in Haiti are doing now considering the high likelyhood of aftershocks.

The map to the left is a U. S. Geological Survey (U.S.G.S.) map of the history of seismic activity in the Central America/Carribean region, which shows a lot of activity. This region is geologically prone to earthquakes.

I've heard all the people in the media crtiticizing Pat Robertson for saying that the earthquake in Haiti is some kind of judgement by God for the Hatians having made a pact with the devil. I'm not surprised by this; Pat has said things like this before.

As I've said, Haiti is located in a region of high geological instability. In fact, according to the U.S.G.S., the Dominican Republic is actually more unstable than Haiti is (if you're not sure which half of the island of Hispanola is Haiti, click here).

Natural disasters happen; the earth is an active, living planet, and people who live in dangerous regions of the planet are always subject to major, natural disasters in their lives. People who live in California know this. So do people in New Orleans. The world is still orderly and stable enough for us to know where these dangerous region are located in the world, although we cannot know when catastrophic natural disasters i these regions will occur. But we know they eventually will occur. This, I think, is God's doing. He created the world and he is kind and merciful to both the good and the evil:

"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

(Mt. 5:43-48)

But what about Pat Robertson's comment? That the Hatians had made a pact with the devil? Haiti is well known for its religious practices, which derive from a bizarre and creepy amalgum of Catholicism and African fetishism. And one can't help but sympathize with the Hatians position of being the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

In short, the people of Haiti need salvation: both spiritual and physical. Their dire poverty needs to be eliminated and their religious practices discouraged (just as Pope John Paul II discouaged them). People need salvation: physical and spiritual salvation:

"Rescue those being led away to death;
hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it?
Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?"

(Prov 24:11-12)

The people of Haiti need a lot more than earthquake aid, and Pat Robertson does say some really stupid things sometimes, but let's face it: unless we are willing to help Haiti and the rest of the Americas pull ourselves together, things will only go back to the way they were only worse. No, we are not obligated to help those in need. We wish to do so out of the goodness of our hearts. Most of us anyway.

A natural disaster, like the earthquake in Haiti reminds us of how stable the world normally is. Unlike moral evil, where a person's actions are evil, natural disasters should not be considered evil per se. Natural disasters and accidents happen, and the results are tragic. We consider them bad as opposed to good, but they should not be thought of as being evil. We think of them as bad (or evil) because they are out of the norm; that is, they don't usually occur. By far, the world is a wonderously good place. Bad things do happen, but not usually. That's why most of the news is usually bad: it's out of the ordinary.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Fall of the Ottoman Empire

Many people don't realize it, but the problems we have today in the Middle East today are rooted in the fall of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the first World War. If you want to understand why the Middle East is in turmoil, then just look at what happened after World War I, which occurred almost one hundred years ago.

I was fortunate, recently, to come across a good book on this subject: A Peace To End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East, by David Fromkin.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

China: The Lone Superpower?

I've been posing this question lately to people I know, and people I meet: "Since the Soviet Union didn't have the stomach to control Afghanistan, and, since the U. S. hasn't the stomach for it either, do you doubt, even for a moment, that if China ever wanted to control Afghanistan that Afghanistan would be completely under control within three days?

China has the stomach for it. Now their even buying more cars than we are.

Is there any doubt who the lone superpower is?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Burning of Chambersburg

There's a historical marker in the center of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania which states:

"Occupied the morning of July 30, 1864, by cavalry of Confederate Gen. John McCausland. Failing to obtain ransom, he burned the town [Chambersburg] in reprisal for ruin in the Shenandoah Valley by Gen. David Hunter"

Those were different days weren't they? A good history of the burning of Chambersburg can be found at:

This history states that:

"McCausland's raid would be the last time that Confederates entered Pennsylvania during the Civil War. Jubal Early never regretted his decision to burn Chambersburg. And the Pennsylvanians who lived through it never forgot the raid. When McCausland died in 1927 at age ninety, some obituaries in Northern newspapers still referred to him as the 'Hun of Chambersburg.'"

Fear breeds hatred, hatred breeds anger, anger breeds violence, and violence, often—as in this case—breeds retaliation; and revenge. War truly is an ugly business. But at least people back then were willing to fight for what they believed in.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Religion, Culture and Society

The latest controversy in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania has been the removal of the nativity scene from the center of town (a large square area, with a fountain), which has been placed there every Christmas season for the past twenty years. Apparently, an out-of-town atheist wanted equal time and space in the square for his beliefs, which were to be represented by a sign, and the town (borough) council decided to abandon any expressions of belief, including (especially?) the nativity scene, other than the placing of flowers and flags out of respect for the war dead which the square (Memorial Square) is actually dedicated to.
In the U. S., this kind of thing has been going on for a long time now. The atheist, in this particular case, as in most cases, is filing a descrimination lawsuit. "Hey mister atheist; get a life!" Why ruin everyone elses fun, which, in this case, is an annual/seasonal tribute to Christ, the Son of the Living God and the Savior of the world. Maybe this atheist, and all of the other atheists who reject Christ, should at least respect the religion, culture, and society of which they are a part: a Christian one.
Think about it, if you went to India you would expect the laws and customs to be based upon Hinduism. Would you not? And if you went to Arabia, wouldn't you expect that society's laws and customs to be based upon Islam? Well, when you live in America you should expect the laws and customs of American society to be based upon Christ and Christianity. Do atheists just not travel much? If they do, I'll bet they don't complain much; not like they feel free to do here. All you atheists and antitheists: Get over it. Think about it. This is a Christian-based society. If most people in Chambersburg like the nativity scene in the square (and I think most people do; if they don't, they're at least respectful about it) then I think they should be able to have one there.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Friends: Lost and Found

(This is a photo of my friend (and former boss) Curtis, who runs the night shift at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette distribution center in Little Rock, Arkansas. Curtis and I are the same age and we think a lot alike. Peculiar, considering the very different backgrounds we have.

It's been wonderful to see so many of my old friends recently along my way back to Chambersburg, PA from Tucson, AZ. One always hopes to find one's friends happy and well. And most of my friends are happy and they are well.

I saw one friend, however, who was going through a very difficult time; and our meeting was totally unplanned (we met at the Barnes and Noble bookstore where we used to work together). Hopefully I encouraged her. I know she encouraged me; although, seeing her—so beautiful and so sad—broke my heart.

My heart was also broken by news that three of my friends: Clyde, Oliver, and George, friends I had worked closely with at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for two and a half years; people I was looking forward to seeing again, had died. In fact, two of them died the same week. Ever since hearing this news (last night) I've been in somewhat of a state of shock.

I try not to take life, especially the people I care about, for granted. I try and capture every memory and every moment that I can because I know how fleeting our life's experience is. Losing friends is a good reminder to not take our lives and the lives of our friends and our loved ones, for granted.

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor requite us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more. But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon those who fear him, and his righteousness to children's children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.
(Psalm 103-8-18)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

My New-Birth Place: El Paso, Texas

While in El Paso, Texas today I stopped to visit with my spiritual mentor: Bishop J. O. Lawson, pastor of Holy Light Church of God in Christ. We hadn't seen one another in twenty-two years. A lot has changed, but much has not. Bishop Lawson taught me to understand the Bible when I was a young man (I was twenty-five then). Also, by his example, he showed me what it meant to be a Christian. I am not the same man now that I was when I first met Bishop Lawson. I was a brand new Christian, but without a church. And I was confused about what church I should go to. Bishop (then Elder) Lawson, along with two ministers from the church invited me to attend Bible study that week, which I did (much to their surprise).

I learned in this Church what being a Christian means and what the Bible says. And that knowledge has never left me. I continually refer to my experiences in El Paso in those early days when I was a new Christian, and I often find myself recalling the wise words Bishop Lawson passed along to me.

Bishop Lawson is Bishop of the West Texas Jurisdiction of the Church of God in Christ, which is headquartered in Memphis, TN, and has--over the past twenty-some years--built a church that is a true city upon a hill.

Balkanization and Regeneration

Sometimes I'm really glad that I'm Catholic.

I was fortunate; I was born into it; although I re-converted back to the Church as an adult. The Church—Christ's Church—is, ultimately, where my allegiance lies. And this Church is also the only Christian Church (anywhere in the world) that is a truly global and multicultural community.

I'm so glad to be a part of it.

This, to me, means everything else—everything—takes a back seat to Christ: nationality, gender, economic status, race, culture, and, at times, even my own happiness and my own well being. As a Christian, I am called to follow Christ; and Christ commands me to love God with all my heart and to love my neighbor as myself.

More than this, Christ also calls me to love my enemies.

Blog Archive