Final Questions and Answers

To close out the year, we’ve been watching the last episodes of From the Earth to the Moon.

As each new year brings changes and developments, I can’t help but feel that we have stepped back from human potential. I’m not writing as a humanist, but rather as someone who sees human progress as a positive thing – a greater use of God given talent and ability.  At least by this end of 2008, we are promised the mission of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, to once again map out the surface and find good places for human to land.

2007 was a eventful year, There’s no need to recount all the major news that happened in the world. For me it brought a new job.

What 2008 we don’t know. There is talk of economic recession. There is an American presidential election. The only thing we know is that at this time next year, God will still be on the Throne.

The thing I wonder is whether anyone else’s life will be better because I was there. Will I be a better husband? A better father? A better teacher? Will I demonstrate any human progress of my own? Will history repeat itself and will I chalk these aspirations up as failures this time next year? Or is this the year I make my big move to difference? Will I stop asking all these questions?

I hope that you, the gentle reader, had a good 2007 and wish for you a better 2008. But whatever happens, remember, God is still on the Throne.

Finding God in Space

One of my Christmas presents was the DVD set of From the Earth to the Moon, the Apollo program docu-drama mini-series Tom Hanks executive produced after he starred in Apollo 13. My wife thought it was new and didn’t realise that I saw it when it was originally released, but she also didn’t know that I wanted to see it again. We have gotten through nine of the twelve discs so far.

One of my Year 7s recently informed me that science has proven that there is no God because people have been to space and didn’t see him up there. Apparently, if there would be any one who would be an atheist, it would be an astronaut. If anything would seem to be the pinnacle of human achievement – of man proving his dependence upon his own scientific prowess – it would be the Apollo program. It took man further than he’s ever been.

On Apollo 8, the first men to reach the Moon marked the occasion by reading from the Bible while in lunar orbit. And not just any part of the Bible. They read from Genesis 1. Frank Borman also read a prayer which was recorded to be played at the midnight service at the Episcopal Church where he was a lay reader. Because they got sued by Madalyn Murray O’Hair over the Genesis reading, NASA got skittish about any further religious expressions being publicly broadcast.

On Apollo 11, Buzz Aldrin discreetly took communion inside the Lunar Module shortly after arriving on the surface of the Moon. The Lunar Module pilots of both Apollo 15 and Apollo 16, the late James Irwin and Charlie Duke, both got involved in Christian ministry in life after NASA. Irwin led several expeditions to Mt Ararat in search of Noah’s Ark. This would seem to indicate a belief in the literalism of Genesis.

Though I don’t know Dave Scott’s specific beliefs, when the Apollo 15 commander parked the Lunar Rover for the final time, he placed a small red Bible on the controls. According to Andrew Chaikin, “If anyone should come this way again, he wanted them to understand who had left his machine here.”

Ed Mitchell also has a spiritual side to him, though it has more to do with the paranormal and the power of the mind. He says that his spiritual awakening in space was the same as Jim Irwin’s, “But you express it in terms of your own belief system, your own experience, and your training.” I would say that either common grace allowed him to experience the omnipresent God because he was open to experiencing something outside of himself, or possibly as Dotty Duke once said “It’s spiritual, but it’s not really the Holy Spirit…”

I don’t know about any of the other Apollo astronauts, but these would disagree with my Year 7. Going to space doesn’t disprove the existence of God. For some it has had the opposite effect.

Phase Two

The grandparents have been delivered to their friends near the airport, ready for their morning flight back to the States. It seems strange to have them gone after a week. Child A1 cried for a long time after they left. Child A2 was unfazed, but I don’t think she realises that they won’t be back for six months.

This moves the holiday into Phase Two, marking the rest of the Year 11 mocks and writing the rest of the reports. The reports require the grades from the mocks and the reports are due on the day we go back.

I’m also trying to finish up Bill Bryson’s biography of Shakespeare, so I can justify starting Eric Clapton’s autobiography. I get so many books on the go that I don’t focus on finishing them in a timely manner.

Why I Haven’t Warmed to Russian Spirituality

The United States is not the only nation when religion is intertwined with politics. If anything, it is much more innocuous mix than you will find in Russia, even if it is my own brand of Christianity that is the official Church in all but name. The State helps the Orthodox Church stamp out any other expressions of Christianity and the Church helps the State stamp out any opposition to the Putin regime. Both promote Russian nationalism above all else. This certainly isn’t surprising, as Putin and the Patriarch used to be colleagues in the same firm, well known by the initials KGB.

An Orthodox priest recently emailed me a copy of a Wall Street Journal article which reveals more about this unholy alliance. I have included it in full below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »

Making Sense of Nonsense

Like the Teletubbies, In the Night Garden will one day make the trans-Atlantic trek. Even though it is produced by the same company, I don’t think it will have as controversial a character as Tinky Winky for people like Jerry Falwell to accuse of sexual ambiguity, so we’ll have to see how well it does. For now, it is all the rage in the UK. Today’s Daily Telegraph has an article on the ITNG phenomenon.

Including in our house. It is aimed at under-5s, though our slightly over-5 is as big a fan. (This could have something to do with the fact that it is the only broadcast television the kids are allowed to watch except on the weekends.) It has something of a hypnotic effect. I hum or sing the music without thinking. I have even been known to hum it in lessons, and I have students who immediately recognise it, as they have little siblings who watch it every evening.

I know all of the characters, and even made up names for some of them. The trio of Tombliboos, are only known collectively on the show, but after I christened them “Dimbo,” “Dumbo,” and “Pombo” in an off-the-cuff remark, my children have received this into the ITNG canon.

Like many other households, our Christmas budget and those of some of the grandparents contributed to the massive income the ITNG creators have received from merchandise licensing.  We didn’t get the £40 Igglepiggle with blanket, but we have a smaller Upsy Daisy and Makka Pakka, a Ninky Nonk, five-episode DVD, and perhaps other bits and bobs.

Despite it’s budgetary implication, ITNG is wonderfully devoid of content, making it very good pre-bedtime viewing. There don’t appear to be any dangerous philosophical overtones or an agenda. The only intelligible words are spoken by Sir Derek Jacobi in the voice-over. Otherwise it is all gibberish.

It is all summed up in the words of Makka Pakka: “Makka Pakka.”

Silencing the Voice of Moderation

I just happened to turn on BBC News 24 as the events in Pakistan were unfolding yesterday. Within a very few minutes the news changed from 20 dead and Bhutto escaped, to Bhutto injured and in hospital, to Bhutto dead.

It seems so strange to think that someone I saw not too many weeks ago as a panelist on Question Time has been assassinated.

Bhutto was a voice of moderation in a country severely in need of it.  She was a voice of challenge to radical Islam and to the military control of Pakistan. She was a Western voice in a non-Western culture. A lot of people had a lot of vested interest in her being dead.

I agree with Mike Huckabee that it is not our duty to evangelise the rest of the world with democracy. However, Bhutto had the opportunity to bring certain values of Western civilisation to a place where those values could alleviate suffering and oppression.  Bhutto was a Muslim, but her values were clearly influenced and shaped by her Catholic primary and secondary education.

Hopefully her values through her legacy will carry some weight and some light in the future of Pakistan and make the world a safer place.

Silencing the Truth

News of persecution in Turkey is usually focused on the Armenians. However, it should be remembered that all Christians  have suffered under the Turks. David brought to my attention the murder of university lecturer in the town where he lives in Sweden.

Fuat Deniz was an internationally recognised expert on the Assyrian Genocide. His throat was slit, which is traditionally symbolic of silencing someone. Swedish authorities also believe the motivation for the murder was political. The Turks don’t take too kindly to accusations of genocide. They are willing to kill to stop them.

No Tears for Media Giants

The Government here is under a lot of pressure from media companies to put a lot of pressure on ISPs to stop file sharing downloads. At the same time, the High Court ruled against a pub landlady who used a foreign service to show Premier League football, rather than BSkyB, which has the exclusive right to show the matches in the UK.

I think there is a difference between using a camcorder in a cinema to get the scoop on the release of a film and downloading a telelvision programme that has already been shown. It’s a bit like the pub landlady, only with no cost implications for the viewer. The programme has already gone to air. It doesn’t cost the end user anything wherever they watch it. If companies want to maximise profits from advertisers, they need to broadcast simultaeously worldwide, rather than go from country to country in a piecemeal fashion.

When it comes to music downloads, I think there is a question as to whether it is mass larceny or mass revolt against the fleecing of the record companies. The record companies are complaining that they face ever-declining profits.

However, back in January 2006, “Sony BMG reported net income of $178 million on sales of $1.49 billion for the three months ended December 31 [2005].” Then this month Bloomberg reported on the BMG half of that partnership:

Bertelsmann AG, Europe’s largest media company, plans to boost revenue by about 50 percent over the next eight years as it expands the Arvato services unit and in countries including China and India.

Sales will exceed 30 billion euros ($44 billion) by 2015, Chief Executive Officer Designate Hartmut Ostrowski said in Berlin today. That’s similar to the revenue Time Warner Inc., the world’s largest media company, posted last year. Bertelsmann will have as much as 7 billion euros to invest in the next four to five years, he said.

Doesn’t your heart just weep for them when somebody shares music? Read the rest of this entry »

Born to Die

It is easy to forget that Christmas is about death. The Father sent the Son to give His life. If we pay attention the other commemorations during the extended Christmas feast this is made more evident to us.

The West celebrates the feast of St Stephen the Protomartyr today. The East celebrates it tomorrow. It didn’t take long after the death and resurrection of Jesus to find out that following Jesus meant following him in death to self, and often not just in an ascetical way. There are folk out there who really, really don’t like the Gospel. Start telling the truth and they start getting very angry.

On the 28th the West celebrate the Holy Innocents. The East celebrates them on the 29th. They could be considered the real proto-martyrs. From His birth, Jesus challenged the ultimate authority of the State. The Holy Innocents were martyred because there was another King of the Jews.

Butler’s Lives of the Saints quotes the Spanish poet Prudentius:

All hail, sweet flowers of martyrdom,
Cut down in life’s bright dawning hour,
And shattered by the foe of Christ,
As rosebuds in a whirling storm . . .

Amidst the streams of blood that flowed
From tender babes of equal age,
Alone, the Virgin’s Son escaped
The sword that pierced the mothers’ hearts.

In the East, each of the five days after today’s Synaxsis of the Theotokos commemorates martyrs. Between St Stephen and the Holy Innocents are the 20,000 martyred at Nicomedia in 302 under Emperor Maximian. On the 30th, the Church remembers the martyr Anysia.

The purpose of the Nativity is the Passion and Pascha. When we born into the family of God, we are exhorted that we must take up our own cross daily.  The days of the festal period should also remind us of those who suffer daily hardship and martyrdom for the sake of the Gospel.

Christ is born!

Glorify him!

Multi-tasking

His body was for Him not a limitation, but an instrument, so that He was both in it and in all things, and outside all things, resting in the Father alone. At one and the same time – this is the wonder – as Man He was living a human life, and as Word He was sustaining the life of the universe, and as Son He was in constant union with the Father. Not even His birth from a virgin, therefore, changed Him in any way, nor was He defiled by being in the body. Rather, He sanctified the body by being in it. For His being in everything does not mean that He shares the nature of everything, only that He gives all things things their being and sustains them in it. Just as the sun is not defiled by the contact of its rays with earthly objects, but rather enlightens and purifies them, so He Who made the sun is not defiled by being made known in a body, but rather the body is cleansed and quickened by His indwelling, “Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth.”

St Athanasius, On the Incarnation §17

About Time

At half-term, I was less stressed and less relieved to have the break than in years past. When we broke up for Christmas today, I was ready.

The Autumn term is almost always the longest. Sometimes the Summer term is as long, but the Year 11s leave about half-way through and the Year 10s leave temporarily for work experience. Summer term is also bathed in daylight. There is something about the sun having been up for five hours before school starts with another five or six after the final bell sounds. In the first term, the days just get darker and darker, until headlights are on full beam pulling into the car park and back on regardless of how early an escape is made.

It also used to be that the Year 7s were only beginning to find their feet by Christmas and those whose behavioural conformity is going to be challenging in post-pubescent years were beginning to make themselves known. Now bad seeds are clearly identifiable by Year 6 Day in the previous summer and they have begun to infect the others with disrespect and disregard for authority on contact. Every year there are more inherently difficult Year 7s  and the infection spreads quicker.

Christmas is a welcomed break. Western Easter comes early this year, so the Spring term will be more of sprint.

Alternative Profession of Faith

It started with the Archbishop of Canterbury dismissing the story of the Wise Men as legend. Fortunately, upon closer inspection he agrees with Matthew’s Gospel that “they are astrologers, wise men, priests from somewhere outside the Roman Empire, that’s all we’re really told.” It the bits about there being three of them or being kings that he says are legend. Actually, I don’t even think those things rate as legend.

But as Ruth Gledhill reports in The Times,

Although he believed in it himself, he advised that new Christians need not fear that they had to leap over the “hurdle” of belief in the Virgin Birth before they could be “signed up”.

So we know where Rowan Williams stands on the essentials of the faith.

Since baptism is how you get “signed up”, I thought Williams couldn’t be correct, as I recalled you have to profess the Apostle’s Creed during the baptismal liturgy in the C of E. Not any more. There’s a “Alternative Profession of Faith”. I’m sure it’s been there for quite some time. When it comes to Jesus, all you do is listen to the question, ” Do you believe and trust in God the Son, who took our human nature, died for us and rose again?” then answer “I believe and trust in him.” No need to believe in His Lordship, His conception by the Holy Spirit, His virgin birth, his suffering, His Ascension, His present mediation at the right hand of thr Father, His Second Coming, or Final Judgment.

This raises one tiny question. Is the Church of England a Christian church?  I’m not saying it isn’t – just asking the question. Can it make certain fundamentals of the faith optional?

Long To Reign Over Us

She may not be the longest reigning monarch, but today Her Majesty the Queen became the oldest monarch in British history. She is  81 years and 243 days old and this afternoon slipped past the record set by her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria.

Because Victoria took the throne at only 18 years old, Her Majesty will have to wait in 2015 to become the longest reigning. Given her good health, she shouldn’t have a problem waiting. She’ll only be 89. Her mother lived to be 101.

All this means that the Prince of Wales, should he survive her, probably won’t reign for long. The Windsor men are not nearly as long-lived as the women.

The Other Saint Boniface

When most people think of St Boniface, they think of the Apostle to the Germans – the patron saint of Germany and the Netherlands who died in 754. Today, however, is the commemoration of another Boniface who was martyred in about 290 in St Paul’s hometown of Tarsus.

He was from Rome. After he and his rich lover (some say he was he was also her slave) repented of fornication, he went East where there was great persecution going on, to gather relics of martyrs to make sure they were cared for properly. When he got to Tarsus, he found Christians being martyred in the city centre. He rushed to them to ask for their prayers and declared to the authorities that he was a Christian.

They beat him and tortured him by methods that vary somewhat in the relating of the story, but all include that his tormenters poured molten tin or lead down his throat. He was unharmed by this, as well as by being thrown in boiling tar. They finally got him with sword parting his head from his shoulders.

St Boniface is a clear testimony to the adage that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. The miracles surrounding his death caused several hundred people to embrace Christ. His own relics were returned to Rome where his erstwhile lover built a church over his grave. As is the custom with martyrs, the miracles just kept happening.

So when you think you are being treated a bit badly by those around you, especially if it for your faith, remember Holy Boniface and you probably don’t have it so bad.

St Boniface of Rome, pray to God for us!

Godless Politics

Tony Blair once opined that if a British politician talks about God, “people think you’re a nutter”. Nick Clegg doesn’t plan on being thought a nutter. The new leader of the Liberal Democrat Party told an interviewer on Radio 5 Live that he doesn’t believe in God.

Most polticians don’t step over this line either. They usually just say that faith is a private matter, while hinting that they may attend religious services on rare occasions.

This is such a contrast to American politics, where no one who run for office national office without making some sort of strong (even if imaginary) connection to religion. Outside of spiritually icy Blue States, candidates for lesser offices will make even more of their faith.

Nick must be hoping to pick up the youth vote. Surely if he advertises his atheism, he will appeal to the increasing Christianophobia leaving schools and entering the adult world with each yearly cohort. This may finally sever the last remnants of the traditional connection between the Liberals and the chapel (non-Anglican Protestant churches) – just as the Church of England was once called the Tory Party at prayer.

Just Like It Sounds

Last night the wife and I were shopping as saw that a local supermarket had whole salmon for £10. The sign on the fish counter said “Whole salmon – £10. Place your order now.” This fit into the wife’s menu for Boxing Day.

The girl behind at the counter, a product of the British education system and undoubtedly with a GCSE in English, took our order. When we told her what we wanted she dutifully wrote in the order book, “Hole Samon”. We walked away shaking our heads.

The Few, the Brave, the Friends

I’ve been looking for friends on Facebook. Facebook doesn’t like this, so they’ve shut down my search function for an indeterminate period of time. They warned me as soon as I did my first search that I was gonna get blocked for too much searching. Then shortly thereafter they held good to their word.When you’ve had as few friends as I have, searching for them is no easy thing. I looked for or invited all the ones in my current email account and sent invites to a few in a quite old account – ones that I had reason to believe still have the same address. It’s the ones in the middle – the ones in my Outlook contacts – that I can’t access because they are on an external drive since my other computer crashed.

When I see these people on Facebook with 400 friends, I have to wonder where they got them. I realise that part of the problem is that most of the people Facebooking are much younger – seems they are all in the class of ’10 or ’11 at some high school or maybe college. So a lot of people in my past simply haven’t gotten into the social networking thing. But then who am I to talk? I only started a little over a month ago.

I realise that even if all my friends past and present suddenly got Facebook accounts, I still wouldn’t have 400 friends. I’ve never been a social butterfly nor a particularly popular person to have around. I tend to only be shy in the making of friends. Otherwise, I have been known to impose myself on others with an almost Asperger-like disregard for the non-verbal feedback. The difference is that I can read the signals that say, “I honestly couldn’t care less” or “Please go away” – I just have trouble graciously extricating myself.

So I’m thankful for the forebearing friends I do have.  I just wish more of them were on Facebook.

Remember That You Were Strangers

Once again, I’ve been found using “Mike Huckabee theocracy theocrat” as a search string. It is always hard to tell if this is used by someone who thinks any Christian values in civil government is the equivalent of theocracy, or whether it is someone who can use it in the more specific sense of a particular set of views within Christian theology.

Since the former is really a straw man argument, it is pointless to argue with it. However, I am pretty sure that Huckabee would not fit within the usual bounds of the theocratic view, which is used as a synonym for – or close relative to – theonomy or Reconstructionism. That is not to say that he hasn’t been influenced by it – or even that he doesn’t have books by R J Rushdoony on his bookshelf, but he has not come across as a theonomist.

That being said, he does take the most theonomic view when it comes to the hot-hot-hot-button issue of immigration. It is one of the few policy areas where the other Republicans can “fault” him. After all, Tancredo and Hunter helped build the wall in California. Guiliani is protesting as much as he can that he didn’t run a sanctuary city and Romney that he didn’t hire undocumented aliens to work for him. Huckabee just keeps explaining over and over why he chose the policy about in-state tuition in Arkansas.

In my view, Huckabee is the only one approaching a biblical view on immigration. I don’t think he has one or supports one, but he comes the closest. I think he put the bar too high on the in-state tuition. I think a child of an undocumented adult who is domiciled in the state, has always lived in the State, and has no personal connection to any other jurisdiction should automatically get in-state tuition, whether or not they achieve a level of academic excellence not required of other children in the state. “One law shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who dwells among you.” (Exodus 12:49)

The treatment of aliens in the Old Testament, both legally and spirirtually, is a matter of God’s keen interest. They are not to be oppressed. “You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether one of your brethren or one of the aliens who is in your land within your gates. Each day you shall give him his wages, and not let the sun go down on it, for he is poor and has set his heart on it; lest he cry out against you to the LORD, and it be sin to you.” (Deut. 24:14-15)

Just like the Israelites, we should remember that we were and are aliens. We were alienated from God, yet Christ died for us and gave us citizenship in heaven. And now that we have that citizenship, we have become strangers and aliens in this world.

One blogger criticised Huckbee as ridiculing the religious views of his opponents because they disagreed with his policy toward immigrants in Arkansas. Well, I’m not going to ridicule anyone; I’m just going to say they are wrong. There is no place in the heart of the believer for Nativism. It is a tenet of that form of idolatry known as American Civil Religion.

It is a patriotism that fails to acknowledge that every founding father was a stranger and an alien. They showed up in a place that didn’t belong to them without being invited, and in many cases stole the land from the previous inhabitants, driving them out with a combination of conventional and biological warfare. Native Americans were not even legally recognised as people until 1879 and did not have the full rights of citizenship until 1924.

The current influx of strangers in the land may have an impact on the current culture, but not nearly as much as the previous culture was impacted and nearly obliterated. How conveniently that is forgotten.

God doesn’t forget. He hears the cry of the oppressed and answers them. Those who fail to recognise this will have a lot to answer for.

“You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

Memory Eternal

I’m a day late, but grateful to Deb for the reminder that yesterday was the anniversary of the repose of Fr Alexander Schmemann. As I’m sure is true for many, Fr. Alexander was my first exposure to Orthodoxy. His elucidation of the sacramental life changed my whole view of everything. I hardly live out my changed view, but then I hardly lived out my previous views, or anything else I should. At least I know the things I should be doing that I’m not.

May Fr Alexander’s memory be eternal!

Real Limited Government

I was looking at the Facebook profile of one of my new Facebook and old blogging friends and he described his political views as “apathetic”.  Another Orthodox friend recently mentioned that his wasn’t sure if the third party he usually supports has a candidate for President yet. As much as I like to blog about and otherwise support political (and in this season, particularly presidential) candidates, I can understand their feelings and attitudes.

Too often we expect too much. While I do think it is important that a nation be led by godliness, and various candidates may reflect that in various ways, as hopefully we all do, no President of the United States or any other elected (or non-elected) official is going to create an environment perfect for [insert constituency here, whether it is Christians, the unborn, the family, everyone, the planet] because they can’t. It is not within their power.

Beyond that, for Christians, our citizenship isn’t even primarily here anyway. Mike Huckabee probably shouldn’t run a TV saying that, but it’s true. We’re just passing through on our way to a city whose builder and maker is God.

But in whatever phase of our eternal life we are in, our hope is in the name of Lord, who made heaven and earth. We have to live out our faith in active ways, but we still have to remember God is in control.  Whoever gets elected president may be the most powerful human on the planet, but the world is still ultimately run by an absolute Monarchy.

East Meets West

Even though I have issues with the Moscow Patriarchate, I am glad to learn that there has been another step in improving relations between Moscow and Rome.

Metropolitan Kirill met with Pope Benedict at the Vatican last Friday, according to a report from the Ecumenical New Service. Kirill is head of the External Relations department of the Patriarchate. The two first met soon after Benedict’s enthronement. This further meeting and other developments show an ease in tensions and help pave the way for Patriarch Alexei and the Pope to get together for the first time, perhaps as early as 2009.

I don’t expect a straightforward path to the re-unification if the Church, but it is important for the Church to present a united front against sprit of the age.

At least Kirill is actually dealing with people outside of the Patriarchate. Not so long ago, Kirill was dealing with the matters of the Russian diocese in the UK because we were considered “external”. That’s one of the reasons we are no longer a part of the Russian diocese and patriarchate.

Saints Peris and Cian and the Forgotten Past

Today is the commemoration of St Peris and his pupil or servant St Cian. I would love to wax poetic about their great accomplishments and their importance to early Christianity in North Wales. Unfortunately, I cannot.

I’ve already told you just about everything I could find about them. Tradition says that St Peris was the son of Helig ap Glanawg, a 6th century Welsh prince. Helig ap Glanawg seems to have fathered six or seven sons who became saints. It is not uncommon to saints to run in families, nor for them to descend from nobility, particularly in Britain.

The sad thing is that while we have a record of their names, and we can account for some churches dedicated to them, much of the reason they were reckoned saints has been lost. Much of this is no doubt due to the ravages of the Reformation and Interregnum. The powers of the day attempted to take out a large eraser and rub out the Christian family tree, disowning our ancestors in the Faith. We are the poorer for it.

We can be thankful that even if we have forgotten the saints of old, they have not forgotten us. They don’t need our knowledge of them to have knowledge of us or intercede for us. There are even those whose names have been lost to us and those who were never noticed by the Church in the first place who faithfully pray in heaven.

As representative of so many local saints, we can be thankful that our fathers among the saints Peris and Cian pray to God for us.

Character and Moral Leadership

I wish I could remember which blog (or blog combox) I read that said Mike Huckabee seems to be running for America’s pastor rather than American’s president. I don’t do lots of blog surfing, so it may be a sentiment that has been oft-repeated or picked up from an MSM expert or pundit.

Tonight as I was washing the dishes, I realised that if that’s what Mike is trying to do, then he has the right idea. What are Americans looking for in a president? They are looking for someone who is caring and comforting in time of need. They are looking for someone who can articulate a vision and inspire hope and courage. They are looking for someone who is not afraid to call evil “evil” and good “good”; someone with a fixed moral compass.

Should voters care about a candidate’s view on foreign policy? Not really. It doesn’t change much from administration to administration, because each has to deal with the exigencies of the day in a pragmatic way. Bush policy didn’t different much from Clinton policy until 9/11 and there’s nothing to say that Gore dealing with post 9/11 would have done it any different than Bush. Would Gore have been more forbearing of Saddam’s flagrant disregard for sanctions and the no-fly zones? Frankly, we don’t know who he would have had running State, Defense, and the NSA, so we don’t know which ways he would have been pulled. Had he invaded (an idea most everyone loved at the time), would he have been stuck in the same mire as the Bush administration? Probably so.

So much of the hype and focus by the MSM is based on red herrings. I would hope for more honesty in the blogosphere. From what I can see, the bloggers of the Northeast and the West Coast, as a few wannabes caught in the Red States in between, are stropping around the blogosphere, furious that a lot of Republicans don’t want gee-everyone-makes-mistakes-like-two-openly-adulterous-relationships Guiliani. They can’t for the life of them understand why Americans might not want a contest between a pro-gay marriage, pro-abortion Republican and a pro-gay marriage, pro-abortion Democrat.

Both sides know that these issues and others have little to do with the Presidency. It’s like Mike Huckabee’s answer about evolution. Why is somebody asking this of a candidate for president when it has nothing to do with the presidency? Those asking the questions are trying to show that Huckabee is a religious idiot – that’s what Blue Staters want to see and will see regardless of how he answers questions on evolution. No one in the Red States believes in evolution anyway, so all it does is convince them that Mike’s their man.

And for all of Bill Clinton’s “It’s the economy stupid” slogan, the Chief Executive actually doesn’t have a lot of control of that either, the OMB and the Departments of Treasury and Commerce notwithstanding. At the end of the day, it is about character.

It is not about competence. Just about every candidate running in the two main parties is competent to be president. All the Republicans want to be like Ronald Reagan and he slept through much of his second term, still managing to combine his moral leadership with that of some pastors in Eastern Europe to being down the Iron Curtain.

All the Democrats want to be like JFK, whose presidency was about fiascos and philandering. Oh, and he got himself killed. Assassination is the civil religion equivalent of martyrdom, so he’s now a saint.

No, it’s about character. It’s about moral leadership. I’m a firm believer that elections give the electorate what they deserve. If the Red States lose their focus on values, they deserve to get a valueless president.

British Muslims Favour Killing Christians

The Sunday Telegraph has an important article today on the threat to Muslims who convert to Christianity in this county.

It’s the aspect of Islam that isn’t included in most school curricula. It doesn’t fit with the multi-cultural pan-religionism the Government (and all good liberal open-minded teachers) want to promote. The death penalty for apostates is a moderate Muslim view. This is not extremism.  This is not al-Qaeda and a few radical mosques.

Under the human rights pressure of international community, only seven countries have codified the death penalty. Pakistan, the sixth most populous country in the world, is currently considering legislation to make apostasy a capital crime. In most countries it is carried out by family and friends.

And yet a significant portion of British Muslims think that such behaviour is not merely right, but a religious obligation: a survey by the think-tank Policy Exchange, for instance, revealed that 36 per cent of young Muslims believe that those who leave Islam should be killed.

This should not come as a surprised because this is what Islam universally teaches.

Patrick Sookhdeo was born a Muslim, but later converted to Christianity. He is now international director of the Barnabas Fund, an organisation that aims to research and to ameliorate the conditions of Christians living in countries hostile to their religion.

He notes that “all four schools of Sunni law, as well as the Shia variety, call for the death penalty for apostates. Most Muslim scholars say that Muslim religious law – sharia – requires the death penalty for apostasy.

“In 2004, Prince Charles called a meeting of leading Muslims to discuss the issue,” adds Dr Sookhdeo. “I was there. All the Muslim leaders at that meeting agreed that the penalty in sharia is death. The hope was that they would issue a public declaration repudiating that doctrine, but not one of them did.”