Friday, February 20, 2015

Thoughts on the President's speech at the National Prayer Breakfast



A very sincere warning: Some will find this offensive and Islamophobic. Facts are not phobic. Facts fear nothing. They simply are. If you find this offensive, I implore you, refute it. If you think it untrue, research it. I would be happy to be wrong about these things.

I had a friend named Alex von Doernberg. I was twice a guest in his home. He enjoyed speaking English with American and British visitors to his castle, Burg Herzberg. He was the descendant of Junker Hans von Doernberg, the man who took charge of our town in Germany after a shooting war between two bishops in 1465. The 20th century Von Doernberg, my friend died in 1983. He had lived a long life as a Hessian nobleman, a hereditary baron under the Kaiser, then he had been part of the Weimar government after the first world war where he learned his craft as a German jurist, diplomat and, after joining the SS, as Head of Protocol Department of the Foreign Office from 1938 to 1945. His English was perfect and he put it to good use as Von Ribbentrop’s adjutant in London. He became a member of the SS in order to continue at his post in the German diplomatic corps. He testified at the Nuremberg trials for the prosecution and the war was a distant memory by the time I met him. I got to know him because he always liked to talk to Americans.

He had served at the German embassy in Washington DC in 1926. Von Doernberg with his splendid English helped make British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain more pliable during the negotiations over the Munich Agreement. In August 1939, he accompanied Ribbentrop to Moscow to sign the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. Convincing Chamberlain that German intentions were good and reasonable was the work of my friend, Alexander von Doernberg. The refusal to see past the sweet words and urbanity of my friend convinced the world that Hitler had nothing but the best of intentions. People like that surly, difficult, unattractive Winston Churchill would have none of it. Regarding the Munich Agreement, Churchill told the English Parliament, “England has been offered a choice between war and shame. She has chosen shame, and will get war.”

Chamberlain’s good intentions paved the way for the next big accomplishment of my friend the baron. In August 1939, he accompanied Ribbentrop to Moscow to sign the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact by which Stalin and Hitler carved up Europe and untold millions were consigned to violent deaths. Our world was devastated by the Nazi horror of the last century, followed by the tyranny of Marxism. The death toll of these two anti-Christian movements was somewhere around 300 million. 

My friend, the Baron von Doernberg was a delightful man; polished, polite and well educated. I was glad to be counted as his friend and to have been his guest I imagine that Neville Chamberlain was just as delightful. Churchill was a disagreeable, ugly, little man who wore as little clothing as possible and smoked a big stinking cigar. Definitely the Baron von Doernberg was the nicer fellow. Nonetheless he was one of the handful of men at the center of the storm that swept away Europe and the culture of the West. For the sake of niceness, Chamberlain, von Ribbentrop and von Doernberg had hands that dripped with the blood millions. The moral of the story is, as I have heard from a great American philosopher, “Better a Churchill than a Chamberlain.”

Dear Rev. Know-it-all,

I have just read President Obama’s speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, the speech criticized by so many non-believing Christians. To my mind it is perhaps the most moving and meaningful speech since Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream…”  It is a true call to what faith in God is about, no matter our religion or lack of it. It is a call to live up to the promise of our country. This speech has made me an Obama fan and, hopefully, a more humble believer in our loving God.

Yours,
Hiram “Hi” Horst

Dear Hiram,

Yes it was quite a speech. The President reminded us that we have been just as violent as Muslims. Allow me to quote his text: 

“We see sectarian war in Syria, the murder of Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, religious war in the Central African Republic…. Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history. And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”

Herein I think we see some assumptions. Unspeakable things have admittedly been done by Christians for revenge, for profit and for a host of ungodly reasons, but have any of these things ever been done at the behest of Jesus of Nazareth? 

The 4th crusade in which the Venetians got the Franks et al. to divert their expedition to the Holy Land in order to conquer the Byzantine-Roman capital, Constantinople in 1202 was certainly shameful and denounced by the pope in Rome as such. The attack was, in part, revenge for the Massacre of the Latins in which the citizens of Constantinople killed as many as 50,000 western Christians in 1182 (look it up.) 

Was this done in the name of Christ who said, “Turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39) and “Love your enemies; pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44)? If you listen to the Prince of Peace, Jesus of Nazareth, you don’t take revenge, though you may possibly defend the weak. 

On the other hand, regarding religiously inspired violence, Muhammad, the prophet of Islam said, or Allah said through him in the Quran, “…slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush.” Quran 9:5

If you are listening to Jesus of Nazareth then aggression and violence are forbidden to you.  Perhaps you have read some verses that seem to favor non-Muslims in the Quran. To understand them in their context you need to know about “abrogation.” This Islamic doctrine holds that the later verses of the Quran, cancel out earlier verses that seem to contradict them. It is as if Allah broke the hard truths to us slowly. This particular verse, the verse of the sword, (Quran 9:5) abrogates around 120 verses of the Quran according to most Islamic theologians. Modern apologists for Islam claim that this verse calls only for internal, spiritual struggle. This is a very recent interpretation. Far more typical is the interpretation of Ismail Ibn Kathir (1300-1373) an influential Muslim theologian. “Do not wait until you find them. Rather, seek and besiege them in their areas and forts, gather intelligence about them in the various roads and fairways so that what is made wide looks ever smaller to them. This way, they will have no choice, but to die or embrace Islam.”  

Didn’t the God of the Bible order such things when He put certain nations under the ban? When the LORD your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you- and when the LORD your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy (Deut 7:1-3).
 
Add to this the Amalekites and in all 8 specific groups were put under the ban; that is slated for obliteration. Why these specific peoples? There are a number of sins of which they were guilty. The one that is most striking to is the worship of Moloch, (sometimes called “Chemosh” or addressed by the title “Baal”)

"'Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molek, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the LORD.”

Continued next week………..

Friday, February 13, 2015

Don't we need abortion and contraception? -- part 2

Continued from last week, 

Letter to N. Dignant

In many ways, the United States is in the same boat as China. We worry constantly about how long the social security system can hold out. There are more old people and fewer young people working; more of us geezers on fixed incomes, fewer up and coming tax payers. There comes a point when the math has to kick in. The crisis is already upon us.

Pensions are less and less sustainable in government, school and union jobs in the United States. Young people with good educations increasing find only part time work for which the employer needn’t provide the benefits to which my generation was accustomed. When looking at population it isn’t really helpful to look at the total population. One needs to look at the total number of three-year-olds in order to do any financial planning. Right now schools across the country are standing empty because there aren’t children to fill them. Universities are terrified. In about 14 years today’s three-year-olds will be applying for college. There aren’t enough three-year-olds to go around, and who will pay the tuitions that support tenured professors? (Tenure is a Latin word for “not having had a new thought in 30 years.”) The universities are already being sustained by foreign exchange students who come to learn math and science while we Americans are doing gender studies and getting our doctorates in Moldavian golden age literature. I imagine that soon the foreign exchange students will be doing gender studies too. 
 
Young people with their doctorates in gender studies and Moldavian golden age literature are having a hard time finding work. Most of the young people I know are underemployed and glad to get a job that is somewhere just above minimum wage. This is because the world culture has entered the DEATH SPIRAL. Isn’t that a cheery thing to call it? The death spiral is really quite simple. Old folks like me don’t need much stuff. I have all the furniture I need and the plaid polyester leisure suit that was the height of fashion in the 70’s is still good enough for me. I don’t need stuff and am on a fixed income anyway. That means there are fewer jobs making the stuff I don’t need and that means there is less money to start a family and that means people have fewer children, so there are less consumers and still, fewer jobs, and that means less employment and that means less money to start a family and that means fewer consumers and that means fewer jobs and so on.

You see: the DEATH SPIRAL: fewer kids, less demand, fewer jobs, except of course in the gender study field. (Not.) “The average cost of raising a child born in 2013 up until age 18 for a middle-income family in the U.S. is approximately $245,340 (or $304,480, adjusted for projected inflation), according to the latest annual "Cost of Raising A Child" report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Aug. 18, 2014”   Who can afford kids on a minimum wage salary? There is a saying, “There is no unemployment on a farm.” There’s plenty of unemployment in cities, where, for some unknown reason, everyone is moving in the hope of finding jobs.  

It seems that the year 2050 — just 35 years away — is pivotal for urbanization and population decline. That’s when the demographic car really goes over the cliff when we become a planet of dependent old people living in large urban slums. You think we have a struggle for resources now? Just wait.  

Population doesn’t cause the struggle for resources. Population creates resources and in itself is a resource. Wars are the lust for power and for the ability to over consume. War wastes the world’s resources. Hunger doesn’t cause war, war causes hunger. War is caused by people wanting the stuff I have. War is theft on the grand scale. If the resources devoted to war could be used for the production of food and consumer goods we could probably sustain double the world’s current population. War kills exactly the age group that makes the chairs and milks the goats and plants the corn.

Soon we will be in the death spiral that is devouring Japan, China, Germany, Poland and about 20 other countries already. We weren’t generous enough to have large families. We limit our families by means of birth control. We kill children in record numbers by means of the crime of abortion and now we can’t have children. We can’t seem to muster up the will to put up with the inconvenience. It is estimated that at the current rate, the population of the world will reach 9 billion in 2050, the magic year, and then plummet to one billion in four hundred years and there is no reason to think that the decline will stop then, unless the world at some point changes its mind about the purpose of sex and the usefulness of children. 

The sweater of humanity seems to be unraveling fast and not many are noticing it. A curious side note; the depopulation of humanity, the unraveling of the sweater started at 4901 Searle Parkway in a little town called Skokie, Illinois. It is where the Searle Company first mass produced the little golden pill that has made it possible for the great bulk of humanity to spend their old ages in loneliness. Most appropriately the factory overlooks a cemetery and a school that is closing for lack of children to fill it. It also overlooks a Catholic church.
People complain regularly about how mean God is in the Bible. God is not mean; he is just a bit of a literalist. In the Bible pharaoh said, “Kill the children of the Israelites!”  God, taking pharaoh at his word sent a plague that killed the first born. “If you want dead children, then dead children it will be.” Thus saith the Lord. 

We told God we didn’t want a lot of children and now our churches our schools; and our homes, are empty save for a few grey heads. We wanted things not families and so be it! We killed our children, the weakest, the unborn to maintain our standard of living and now we will face the rationing of health care in our old age. We geezers are now the weakest and there are not enough children to help us in our old age. 

Do you think the strong will care for us, the new weakest any more than we cared for the children, the former weakest? No, I suspect that they will let us die rather than waste expensive health care on the old and useless. Besides, it will be better for us anyway, just as it was better for all those little babies who had no one to love them. Just as we mercifully and humanely ended unwanted pregnancies, I’m sure in the near future the few young and strong who remain will mercifully and humanely end unwanted old people, just as you Ms. Dignant have asked. 

“As you measure out so it will be measure to you.” (Luke 6:38)

Yours, 

Rev. Know-it-all

Friday, February 6, 2015

Don't we need abortion and contraception because of over population?



Dear Rev. Know-it-all;

How can you be so irresponsible as to tell these lies about world population? The planet is overcrowded and the struggle for resources is the reason for war and poverty throughout the world. Your “barefoot and pregnant” theology is surely at the root of the world’s current problems. If you really loved the poor you would be passing out birth control in your church vestibule and driving poor young girls to family planning clinics to mercifully and humanely end unwanted pregnancies.
Yours, 

N. Dignant

Dear N.,

I may be mistaken, but I am just looking at the statistics. According to United Nations data, the world total fertility rate (number of children born by each woman or TFR) was 4.95, worldwide in 1955. It is now 2.36. The worldwide replacement rate is about 2.33. That means that every woman in the world must have two and one third children in order to keep the population stable. Obviously not every woman on the planet will have 2.33 children. Some will not be able to have any at all, and thus others will have to take up the slack, so to speak. So, 2.36 children per woman on spaceship earth means that we are right at replacement rate, more or less. That should be good news, no? No. Were it to stop and stay there, that might be just fine, but it isn’t stopping there. It can’t stop there. The decline is too precipitous. Like a car without brakes, it seems to be accelerating in its downhill race.  In just the space of 60 years, the fertility rate of the whole world has been cut in half. The decline is far more dramatic in most of the Islamic world. Iran had a TFR (total fertility rate) of around 7 children per woman in 1960.  It has plummeted to 1.85, as of 2014 estimates. Demographers, (the people who study this stuff) are astonished at this fertility drop in Iran. It is unprecedented in world history. 

Why do populations drop? Primarily through urbanization. Kids are useful on the farm. They are fairly useless in a city. In 1950 about 30 percent of people lived in cities. Just over 70 percent lived in the country. It was about 50/50 around 2006 it is now about 55% city to 45% percent country. It is projected to be about 30% country 70% city a little before 2050.  This is happening at a very steady rate. How many 18 year olds do you know who can’t wait to get away from home and move to the country?  

By 2050 the great bulk of humanity will have never seen a live chicken or cow or horse or goat, much less know how to raise one. No, they will all go to university in the big city and major in gender studies or cosmetology, assuming that it will be the duties of lesser minds to milk cows and plant corn. We are increasingly incompetent in the skills that we daily depend on, things like how to grow a tomato or build a chair. I include myself in that sorry lot of neo-pseudo-intellectuals who can use words like neo and pseudo.  We neo-pseudo types have very little use for children. One or two are enough to fulfill an ornamental function. We will probably not be picking corn in the near future, and so do not need the indentured labor of children. 
 
Shouldn’t all this be good news? Won’t it mean less pressure on the world’s resources? Not necessarily. Allow me once again to quote the United Nations Database:

The increasing proportions of aged persons have been accompanied, in most populations, by steady declines in the proportion of young persons. Over the last half century, the proportion of children (0-14 years old) dropped worldwide from 34 per cent in 1950 to 30 per cent in 2000. Over the next 50 years, the proportion of children is projected to decline by almost one third, so that by the year 2050, the share of persons aged 60 or over in the population will, for the first time in history, match that of persons younger than 15.

In other words, lots more feeble old people like me; a lot fewer young people like I used to be. In China, for instance, it is estimated that 25% of the country will be over 65 years old by 2050. These 250 million geezers will be dependent on a small group of spoiled only children who haven’t a clue what it means to have a sibling. I was listening not long ago to the amusing story of a Chinese foreign exchange student who was invited to meet an American student’s brothers and sisters. The American student explained that he had 5 brothers and sisters. 

The Chinese student said, “You mean your cousins? 

The American said, “No, I mean the five other children of my parents.” 

The young Chinese student, dumbfounded, asked, “How is that possible?” 

The idea of large families has been dead in China since the government began to encourage two-child families in 1970 and then legislated one-child families in 1979. In 2013, certain groups in China were allowed to request permission to have two children. Two million requests were expected.  Only one million were made. After two generations of small families, the Chinese have gotten used to not having children. They may even prefer it. If the government will take care of you when you are old, why have children? 

A disturbing coda to the China situation: There are millions more men than women in China because if you’re going to have children, you want a son to carry on the name and take care of you in old age. Sex-selective abortions always seem to favor the male gender. It would be humorous were it not so tragic, that the twin sacraments of the feminist movement, birth control and abortion, succeed mostly in limiting the number of women in the world, and increasing the number of men. Young men, who have no prospect of marriage, family and meaningful work, tend to join armies and kill women.

It seems that abortion rights and easy access to artificial birth control have not been always the boon to women that people thought they would be. The Hoover Institute's Mary Eberstadt wrote in First Things that Pope Paul VI predicted “…a general lowering of moral standards throughout society; a rise in infidelity; a lessening of respect for women by men; and the coercive use of reproductive technologies by governments”   

Oops! He was right. Who would ever have believed that the largest country in the world would force abortions on the unwilling and that the United States would actively encourage abortions? The Church has been kicked out of the bedroom. Now the government has moved in. Great job, feminists!

Continued next week

Friday, January 30, 2015

Aren't all religions the same?



Dear Rev. Know-it-all,

Do you think all religions are the same? They sure look the same, all that bowing and scraping and odd clothing and relics and shrines and pilgrimages and fundraising and rules. They sure seem the same to me.

Yours ever,  

T. O’Lerance

Dear “T”,

The answer to your question is a yes and no answer. All religions look the same because all people are the same. Funny, people look so very different from each other but really aren’t very different, and religions look so very similar but are really completely different from one another. People have taken to ignoring the Genesis account of creation because they think science has disproved it. Nonsense! The Genesis account got it exactly right. It is a poem about God’s love for humanity that says all human beings are descended from one man and one woman and thus are meant to be one family. 

We can be proud that we Christians have always believed it when people like Hitler and the pseudo-Darwinists believe that there are different species of humans, their species, of course, being the master race. Christian Scripture and tradition both teach that there is no such thing as race. There are certainly different cultures and religions, but we are all the same race: human. Religions look alike because people are alike. We all want the same things, a peaceful life for ourselves and those we love, health, a roof over our heads and a decent meal with people we enjoy, a good night’s sleep and fair weather.  

These are things we all want, though some of us want a little bit more, like Hitler who wanted Europe and beyond, or Stalin who wanted power over the lives of all others or Kim Jong-un or the Castro brothers who to live in luxury while those around them starve. We are all the same with the same basic needs and wants, but somehow something has gone terribly wrong when the world produces those who would be happy at the price of others’ misery. In short, we all want paradise; the question is how to attain it. Our desire is the same. Our methods differ wildly.

Buddhism, as I simplistically understand it, deals with human suffering by refusing to suffer, as did stoicism in the Greco-Roman world. Hinduism sees suffering as the result of bad behavior, bad karma, in a former life. The three monotheistic religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam believe that suffering is the result of sin, albeit my sin or perhaps others’ sins or the sins of our first parents. We monotheists all ask the question that Rabbi Kushner asked, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”  His answer is that God is not really omnipotent. Islam answers the question by saying that God is omnipotent, but arbitrary. He can do what he wants. Who are you to question? 

Traditional Christianity has a completely different answer. Perhaps we are the most opposite to Buddhism. We don’t believe that suffering is to be escaped. It is to be embraced. Suffering is the currency of love. God allows suffering for the sake of love. Carefully trained by the romanticism of three centuries, we moderns think of love as a kind pleasure. It’s about how we feel, not what we do. Christians repudiate that definition of love. 

We believe that God sent His very heart to earth in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. In Him, God lives our life and cries our tears. Jesus defined love by a horrific death on the Cross. He was faithful to the end for the love of humanity and in trusting, loving obedience to his Father in heaven. On the Cross He redefined love. This is the sense in which we are different from all other religions. We define love by the Cross. This puts us in complete contradiction to the world in which we live. For this culture and even for many who claim to be Christian, suffering has no value. 

 We believe that love is always and only what you give away. Love has no expectation of return. It simply gives. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an offering for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)  

When we look at Christianity and see nothing but the rules and rituals, we miss the point. So many people look at the rules and rituals of the faith and conclude that since they are merely human, they are unimportant. That’s the point! They are human. Our rules and rituals express human longing for ultimate truth. They lift humanity to the divine.

Christianity is the opposite of the religions of the world. Some religions deny pain, some try to explain it away. Christianity believes that God Himself embraced pain for the sake of love.  Christianity believes that you cannot know God without knowing the Cross. You cannot be saved but by embracing the Cross. The Mass, which is at the center of traditional Christianity, is the renewal of the sacrifice of the Cross.  We are allowed to be part of the cross of Christ by receiving Holy Communion. 

The whole discussion of who may and who may not receive Holy Communion forgets the basic truth. The discussion should be about who will embrace the Cross. It isn’t about my rights or my privileges. The Mass asks me to embrace His Cross. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”  (1 John 4:8)  You cannot know real love, love as Jesus defines it, without knowing the Cross.  

Our goal as individuals and as a Church is to bring every human being to a saving knowledge of Christ. That saving knowledge is not simply to know a religion or a moral system, or to join a certain club. It is to know the Cross and to embrace it. Without the Cross there is no love, and all our religion becomes senseless. 

In the current religious disaster, I suspect that we, the Church have taken our eyes off the Cross, and wish somehow to reconcile our own narcissistic desires with the absolute demands of sacrificial love. We cannot do it and we are fools, or worse, to think we can.

Rev. Know-it-all