Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Imperials Live 1984--Bread Upon the Water

This is old, old Christian rock the way it should be. Rich, my friend, since you've posted some Christian rock at your site, this one's for you. Eldest Daughter found this performance for me on-line and included the audio track on my oldies Christmas present CD. It's a faster tempo than the studio version I already have, and of course the improvisation on the electric guitar is going to be different every time. Good old Armand Morales with his bass voice, beloved of all old Imperials fans.

Dig those haircuts! What were we thinking to wear our hair like that? I, of course, being a girl, never wore my hair like that. Enjoy. But don't bother listening if you hate old Christian country-rock.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas presents and miscellaneous notes

I got an unexpected present yesterday. Eldest Daughter made me a CD with some oldies (by which she means, songs from the 1980's) on it. No playlist, which actually made it better, as every song is a surprise. She included "I Will Be Here," which I knew but didn't have on a CD. Just in case you aren't familiar with it, here it is.

A relative also sent us this CD, which I highly recommend. It's mostly settings of scripture and Psalms to music by Ortega himself with several wonderful hymn settings. I'm usually hidebound about new tunes to old hymns, and some of the hymns on this (like "All Creatures of Our God and King") are sung to their old tunes, but Ortega's new ones are beautiful as well.

It was a wonderful Christmas, very quiet, except when we were playing Mannheim Steamroller or Go Fish. (Go Fish has a great version of "White Christmas," but they should ditch the semi-rap version of "Little Drummer Boy"!) Faith's new Dover coloring book (from me) was a big hit with her older sisters and me as well. It has must-color pages, so I photocopied a page for all of us. (Ssshhh. Don't tell.) We sat around and colored last evening listening to music. I recommend it--if you have girls. I suppose boys wouldn't do it.

During the course of the day yesterday, probably inspired by Mannheim Steamroller's folk-type music, I got thinking about an instrument I lost about thirty years ago. It was a wonderful little thing. A man came to our high school, invited by our music teacher, and sold them to all the students for twenty dollars apiece. Twenty dollars was enough to pay, especially for my parents, that I shouldn't have lost it, but it was affordable if you tried. He called it a shepherd's pipe. It was the easiest thing to play in the world. When I'd been in grade school, I'd suffered trying to learn the recorder, which was all the rage with music teachers just then. Not only was the recorder hard to play--even for someone like me who can play the piano and read music--but to my ear it didn't sound all that good. The shepherd's pipe was wonderful. Mine was nickel plated and had a high, sweet sound a little like a piccolo. You simply played up the scale by covering the holes successively, and half-steps were played by half-holing. Nothing could be simpler. I left it lying in the ladies' bathroom at an evening school event, in the custom-made case my grandmother had sewn, and I never saw it again. It's bugged me ever since. When I've googled or asked music stores about a shepherd's pipe, I've gotten the proverbial blank stares. (Yes, Google can give you a blank stare.)

But, I've now made up my mind: It's a penny whistle. I don't know how many nickel-plated penny whistles there are out there, or if that's even important, but I'm convinced now that's what it is. Come better weather, when driving is once more simple and easy (along about May, I'm guessing), I'm going to try to find time to go to the big music store around here and ask if they have penny whistles or tin whistles. They're still only about twenty dollars. Could be fun.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Though skeptics try at times, in the service of their own silly parallelisms, to imply that the December 25 date for Christmas is somehow essential to Christianity, most Christians know that this is not true. We don't actually know what time of year Our Lord was born.

But I think that those men who decided--whoever they were--to celebrate it in December were wise. Of course, they didn't foresee the spread of Christianity to the antipodes, where all is topsy-turvy and this time of year is warm, with long, sunny, days. Our brethren Down Under will have to forgive us for celebrating that whole, wonderful, awe-inspiring cultural structure that has grown up around the (probably deliberate) decision to celebrate the Feast of the Nativity at the time of the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, the time of darkness and cold.

Many beautiful carols have arisen out of this choice, but one of my favorites is "Lo, How a Rose," and in all of it, my favorite line in the English translation is

She bore to men a Savior, when half-spent was the night.

The allusion here is double. First, the line alludes to the quotation from the apocryphal Book of Wisdom which is used in the introit to the Mass for Christmas:

While all things were in quiet silence, and the night was in the midst of her course, Thine almighty Word, O Lord, leaped down from heaven from Thy royal throne.

But the phrase also alludes, probably, to Romans 13:12,

The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.

By a happy accident, if it was an accident, of the translation, one can take the statement that the night was half-spent to mean either that the night was half over or that the night was half exhausted.

The time, in our world and in our country, is not bright. We may indeed feel that we are deep in the night, that the night is half-spent, and that our civilization, too, is half-spent, exhausted, its vital force and will to live running out.

The message of Christianity, embodied in the choice of the darkest time of the year for the celebration of the birth of the Light of the World, is that it is at just those times that God acts. Ever since Adam fell mankind has been in darkness. But St. John tells us that the light shone in the darkness, and the darkness was not able to overcome it. Into this, our dark world, God sent His Son, made of a woman, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Rifqa update

See longer version at W4 here. Short version--good news for now, but the hearings continue, and there is no clear end in sight or vindication of her right to be free of her family short of her 18th birthday.

Monday, December 21, 2009

"Break Forth O Beauteous Heavenly Light"--Glad

I'm Glad to have figured out how to embed this song. It might have been made for the group. I love this song. He is our peace!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Merry Christmas--Straight No Chaser


I've never known what that song about Africa means--the one they turn into a Christmas song at the end. The SNC Christmas version is a lot better.

Fun, fun link. See also Bill Luse's post with a video of SNC in a Hardees restaurant here.

HT to my Facebook friend George.

And a blessed fourth Sundy in Advent. I hope to be able to write something more serious later this week!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Gaudete Sunday

A blessed third Sunday in Advent to my readers. Today is Rejoice Sunday. There is (at least for me) a small and interesting liturgical puzzle about it, which I wrote about here.

This morning we sang in church "How Bright Appears the Morning Star," another Nicolai-Bach hymn and a great success. I defy anyone to be gloomy while singing "Incarnate God, put forth thy power. Ride on, ride on, great conqueror, till all know thy salvation. Amen, amen. Alleluia, alleluia, praise be given." And so forth.

My readers, especially my Protestant readers unfamiliar with this song, should note that it gives the whole Gospel. The words are great--note especially the second verse. And the line in the third verse (my favorite), "With praise ye sinners fill the sky." Not "with praise ye angels" or "with praise ye people" or anything dull like that. It's the sinners who are to fill the sky with praises to Christ for our redemption. (Reminds me of an old Philips, Craig, and Dean song, "Favorite Song of All," which contains the line, "His favorite song of all is the song of the redeemed."

Here are the words to "Wie Schon Leuchtet Der Morgenstern" (How Bright Appears the Morning Star).

How bright appears the Morning Star,
with mercy beaming from afar;
the host of heaven rejoices;
O righteous Branch, O Jesse's Rod!
Thou Son of Man and Son of God!
We, too, will lift our voices:
Jesus, Jesus!
Holy, holy, yet most lowly, draw thou near us;
great Emmanuel, come and hear us.

Though circled by the hosts on high,
he deigned to cast a pitying eye
upon his helpless creature;
the whole creation's Head and Lord,
by highest seraphim adored,
assumed our very nature;
Jesus, grant us,
through thy merit, to inherit
thy salvation;
hear, O hear our supplication.

Rejoice, ye heavens; thou earth, reply;
with praise, ye sinners, fill the sky,
for this his Incarnation.
Incarnate God, put forth thy power,
ride on, ride on, great Conqueror,
till all know thy salvation.
Amen, amen!
Alleluia, alleluia!
Praise be given
evermore, by earth and heaven.

And as a bonus, here is an organ version. It starts a little slow, but wait--it picks up after the introduction.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Climategate bon mot

Heh. This is good. From a reader at VFR:

I'm pretty sure that there's nothing in my e-mail that would make me look like a member of a self-serving cabal bent on defrauding the global scientific community. But maybe that's just me.

Advent miscellany

Today was Bible Sunday. Here is the great collect:

Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our
learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and
inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may
embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which
thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Written by Thomas Cranmer, it has that wonderful, Tudor Anglican sound. There is a hint of the rigor of the Puritans in its somberness and plainness, but only a hint. And only Cranmer could give us the justly famous phrase "hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them."

We sang Philipp Nicolai's wonderful hymn "Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying." The tune here is at least accurate though played too fast. If you can get the music, try to introduce it to your church. The Bach harmonizations, with the moving inner parts, are wonderful. It took me a while, but I finally found the translation used in the 1940 hymnal, much better than several other translations I've seen. It seems to me that this song should be sung in churches all over America, not just Anglican churches, and certainly not heretical Episcopalian churches, where they certainly aren't preparing like any virgins wise! But in Baptist, Bible churches, and evangelical churches, in Catholic churches, and in Methodist churches. Come on, let's get moving and get our lamps burning!

1. Wake, awake, for night is flying:
The watchmen on the heights are crying,
Awake, Jerusalem, arise!
Midnight's solemn hour is tolling,
His chariot wheels are nearer rolling,
He comes; prepare, ye virgins wise.
Rise up, with willing feet,
Go forth, the Bridegroom meet:
Bear through the night your well-trimmed light,
Speed forth to join the marriage rite.

2. Sion hears the watchman singing,
Her heart with deep delight is springing,
She wakes, she rises from her gloom:
Forth her Bridegroom comes, all glorious,
In grace arrayed, by truth victorious;
Her Star is risen, her Light is come!
All hail, Incarnate Lord,
Our crown, and our reward!
We haste along, in pomp of song,
And gladsome join the marriage throng.

3. Lamb of God, the heavens adore thee,
And men and angels sing before thee,
With harp and cymbal's clearest tone.
By the pearly gates in wonder
We stand, and swell the voice of thunder,
That echoes round thy dazzling throne.
No vision ever brought,
No ear hath ever caught,
Such bliss and joy:
To raise the song, we swell the throng,
To praise thee ages all along.

By the way, I was just reading I Thessalonians 4 today. I saw someone say on-line a while ago--I forget if it was a Lutheran or a Catholic--"________s don't believe in the rapture." Well, it sure looks like St. Paul did!

Now, from the heights of Nicolai and Bach it's a little bit of a come-down to this far plainer tune, but the words...! I can never come to this verse without a stiffening of the spine.

But the slow watches of the night not less to God belong,/And for the
everlasting right the silent stars are strong.

Well, okay then, I guess we aren't allowed to despair, right?

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Great Climategate cartoon

See Madeleine and Matt Flannegan's blog, here. Heh.

Incidentally, if my readers want to conjecture: What do you think? Will man-caused global warming still be taught to school children as fact thirty years from now?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Confusing new reports about Rifqa's legal situation

Evidently some sort of plan for Rifqa was filed in Ohio court yesterday by FCCS. See here and here. I'm sure Pamela Geller is working to try to get a copy of the actual plan (I hope she is, anyway), but so far, we have only these two news stories to go by, and they present confusing and conflicting information. This is doubtless a result of the fact that newspaper writers can't write clear stories anymore, but that's a complaint for another day.

The Fox news article uses the phrase "when she goes home" but then later says that the plan also envisages the possibility that Rifqa may never go back to live with her parents. So which is it?

The Columbus Dispatch article implies that the kumbaya pow-wow the plan insists on between Rifqa and her parents will occur before a decision is made as to whether she is to be returned to them and as part of the attempt to reunite her with them. Rifqa herself has said that she doesn't want to meet with her parents.

One thing is pretty clear: She is almost certainly going to be forced to have a meeting with them, though the circumstances of that meeting are unclear. The Franklin County social worker who presented the plan has decided that what is needed is greater "understanding" between Rifqa and her parents. The Dispatch article quotes the plan as saying that Rifqa's concern is that her parents don't "understand" her Christianity. Uh, no. She's afraid she'll be killed or dragged back to Sri Lanka and there imprisoned, forced into a marriage, etc. I gather that the plan does later use the word "fear" for Rifqa's feelings. But "understanding" is the word of the day. She and her parents must get together--either before or after she is returned to them--and "hear each other out."

The plan evidently considers relatives with whom Rifqa might live if not returned to her parents. Bad move, of course, as if she has any other relatives (I hadn't heard of any before this) they will just be part of the same Muslim community and could easily be involved in returning her to Sri Lanka or in other plans against her well-being. The plan also asks what other non-relatives she might stay with. But since she is now staying with non-relatives in foster care, what is the point of that? It appears to be to get her off the hands of Franklin County Children's Services.

I haven't read the plan, but I'll bet dollars to donuts it says nothing whatsoever about preventing her from being taken out of the country if she is taken out of foster care. The clueless Dispatch writer says confidently that she will "be on her own" after she turns 18. Not if she's in Sri Lanka! But we're not talking about that, right?

The Dispatch article says that the goal is to reunite her with her parents before her birthday next August 10. Great. Statutorily, my understanding is the FCCS is bound to consider it to be their goal to reunite children with their parents. I gather this is boilerplate in most states. But children's services also have a great deal of latitude in interpreting their duties relative to this goal and are permitted to decide that it can't be fulfilled, as the child would plausibly not be safe at home. Without reading the plan, I have little evidence (besides the general folly and injustice of FCCS's actions so far) as to whether this reference to a goal of reuniting the family before Rifqa's birthday is a mere gesture to the formal statutory framework or is really a serious indication that FCCS is bound and determined to return her to her parents, even against her will. Even the text of the plan might not be at all clear on that point.

Atlas is now referring to the December 22 hearing as a dependency hearing, though her previous statement had been that this is a hearing on the "incorrigible child" matter. Have the two issues been rolled together in court procedings? No one has said. But in any event, the next date we know of is December 22.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Rifqa post at W4

See here.

Comments are being directed here.

The new W4 post contains an address where we can try to send Rifqa a Christmas card. My defeatist self wonders if they will be delivered, but I have sent a card. It's definitely worth a try.

See also a discussion here by Jamal Jivanjee of the way in which he was given the runaround when he tried to visit Rifqa. He has some e-mail addresses for Rifqa's lawyers and suggestions for writing to them, asking them to remove part of the excuse for the runaround. She should at least be able to see some Christian friends while waiting to learn her fate. It's just incredible the way they are blatantly isolating this girl. It really looks like an attempt to break her.

We can only keep praying, but I've posted these updates to give a few practical suggestions as well

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Advent Sunday

Tomorrow is Advent Sunday. We're starting another church year. It's a wild thought. (I love Trinity season, but it gets a bit long. This year it wasn't even the longest, because Easter wasn't particularly early. Still, six months out of the year of Trinity. I suppose I should be grateful that it isn't just called "ordinary time," as I hear is now the case in the Roman Catholic Church.)

Last year, I find, looking through the archives, I wrote a really good, long, detailed post on Advent and on the ways in which Protestant Christians can and should celebrate it. Have a look at it if you're interested.

Let me add here that if you are going to celebrate Advent, you strongly consider using the real collects for Advent. Here is a page that has them all. For three out of four of them, I cannot even imagine any Baptist or other Protestant having the slightest theological scruples about anything in them, and for the fourth, the only scruples would arise from a particular interpretation of Calvinism rather than from Protestantism per se. But if you're gonna do it, do it traditional as much as possible. I once saw a bunch of "Advent prayers" that were totally modern and had nothing to do with the traditional weeks of Advent. Here, briefly, are the emphases of the collects/Sundays:

First Sunday--General Advent Sunday--emphasis on Jesus' first and second comings and on preparing for His second coming.

Second Sunday--Bible Sunday--emphasis on thankfulness for Holy Scripture and the way we should read and digest it to prepare for Jesus' coming.

Third Sunday--Gaudete Sunday--emphasis on joy, collect emphasizes prayer for ministers that they may prepare the hearts of the people for Jesus' second coming.

Fourth Sunday--Request for God's power to help us run the race that is set before us.

If you light candles, there should be three purple, one pink, and one white. One purple candle the first Sunday, two the second, two purple and the pink the third (Gaudete), and all the candles but the white one the fourth Sunday. The white candle, the Christ candle, is a symbol of Jesus, the light of the world, and is lit on Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day.

And here, just because I love it so much, is the collect for Advent Sunday:
Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Recycling is great (Happy Thanksgiving)

Ha! Bet you never thought you'd see me say that.

I mean recycling posts.

I've looked at last year's Thanksgiving post and decided I cannot better either the post or the photo. The prayer is the general thanksgiving for morning prayer from the Book of Common Prayer.

A happy Thanksgiving to my dear readers.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

There's no place...

I left New Orleans for home yesterday in the rain. To be fair, the weather had been sunny until then. But yesterday morning the view from the twenty-ninth floor of the hotel was gray. Through the window drops I could see below the giant, unreal-looking palm trees marching down Canal Street, already wrapped in Christmas lights, and the narrow, straight streets of the French Quarter laid out like a map to the edge of the Mississippi, a bend of the Mississippi so huge I had at first mistaken it for the ocean.

The taxi to the airport smelled like a memory of cigarettes, and there was a Niagara pouring through a leak in the overhang at the unloading dock outside the Delta Airlines doors. I paid the taxi driver, gathered my bags, took one last look at the dirty, dark, day, and plunged into the airport for a full day's imprisonment.

All that day, the outdoors could only be seen--through tiny windows, through huge plate-glass windows. Sunny in Detroit, but a picture only, untouchable, unsmellable. The food courts in the airports smelled appetizing but too warm and overwhelming, yet not quite able to overcome the distinctive smell of airports--some sort of disinfectant common to all airports in the country. The last leg of the journey, the little flight from Detroit to my town, seemed airless. There had been a definite, disturbing smell of exhaust fumes at the beginning, which no one else could sense. Even when that dissipated, the air itself was exhausted, oxygen-poor, hardly worth the trouble of breathing. One could hardly believe that fifty souls could live and move and have their being with only that air in that narrow metal tube.

Then we banked, and looking past the girl by the window, I caught a glimpse of home. Fields like chess squares, surrounded by maple woods, mostly now leafless, looking like brown fur from that height, here and there spiked by a last, leaping flame of autumn color. The plane landed, and we waited an eternal, gasping, last few minutes before the door opened. By the grace of God, there was no jetway this time, just stairs down from the door. I stepped out, and the sky opened overhead in an infinite vault, robin's-egg blue, paling to almost white at the edges. The sunset air was clean and chill. I could have stood for ten minutes on the tarmac, just breathing, but the children were waiting at home.

This morning, I pulled the drapes back from the big, southern window in the dining room. Frost rimed everything--all the grass and the last few leaves. Just across the street, to the southeast, the cold, blazing sun topped the neighbors' fifty-foot blue spruce, looking like some improbable, out-of-scale Christmas tree star.

This afternoon I raked the leaves.

It's good to be back.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Rifqa Bary being denied visitors

And, Atlas has learned, her laptop has been confiscated. The court clerk appears to have been instructed to lie to inquirers and tell them "no information" exists on the next date of her dependency hearing. (The Nov. 16 public hearing was canceled.) As lawyer John Jay points out in the linked entry at Atlas, court cases don't just float in limbo like that. There is always a paper trail and a court date scheduled for a continuing case. The public is being kept in the dark, probably illegally, so that Rifqa's supporters cannot show up to show support for her at any hearings and cannot keep sunshine on the process.

I have somewhat limited computer access right now but hope to get this up at W4 soon, perhaps this evening, as well as a link to an interview I had on various other subjects on the James Allen Show last Saturday.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Good info. on Christians under the PA

The next time some anti-Israel acquaintance starts whining at you about the wrongs suffered--somehow--by Christians as a result of the Israeli "occupation of the West Bank," I suggest you give him this link.

I'm certainly going to be tempted to do so. Though I must admit to the feeling of weariness at the thought of trying to get people to see reason. If there are Arab Christians who are really anti-Israel, not just pretending out of fear (and I'm afraid there are), they are apparently ignoring some facts. Dhimmitude will do that to you. But apparently the people whispering the truth to American pastors in their own homes don't have that problem with reality. The article tells how Christians in the West Bank are much worse off ever since the Palestinian Authority has had some autonomous rule there than they were when the Israelis kept more of a hand on things. Yet plenty of Christian liberals (and what I call "paleo-leftists") want us to give the "Palestinians" a whole state with even more land and complete sovereignty. And they tell us to do so in the name of our Christian brethren who are, they claim, being deprived of "their land" by the fact that Israel still has some degree of oversight in the West Bank. Sounds like a plan to me.

But let's not let facts get in the way of ideology.

HT Israel Matzav

Monday, November 16, 2009

Thank you, God, for everything

When I was a little girl, my parents frequently reminded me to thank God that I live in America. They rightly pointed out all the blessings we enjoy as Americans that are not enjoyed by other people in many other countries. My mother was especially emphatic, and rightly so, about the poor treatment of women in many non-Western countries and about my blessings in being a woman in America.

To my mind, that is a pretty decisive point in favor of international adoptions from such countries. That is, assuming that the parents adopting the child are good and loving. I'm even willing to throw in the assumption that the adopting parents are serious Christians and hence that the child will not trade the ills of his country of birth for all the moral evils of a secular and perhaps decadent upbringing in the West. But on those assumptions, I believe that children internationally adopted should be at least as thankful as those of us born here for the opportunity to be Americans.

This is all apropos of a blog debate here on the subject of adoption. I'm astonished at how far my interlocutor, a blogger named Laura Wood, is willing to go. She even implies that we Americans are doing something wrong if we adopt intelligent orphans from some non-Western country, thus taking those bright children out of "their" country and "altering cultural dynamics" in the country of origin. She goes so far as to imply that when such children grow up they will have a legitimate complaint of "callousness" against their American parents for having harmed the "cultural harmony" of the country in which they were born by not leaving them in an orphanage there and by giving them a loving, two-parent home in America instead. I find it astonishing that anyone would make such an argument.

Just makes me all the more grateful to be an American.

And by the way, let's not forget to pray for Rifqa Bary, that she too will have the opportunity to be an American and to have, as an adult, the religious freedom for which our country stands. Pamela Geller's rally for her was duly held today in Ohio, but because today's public dependency hearing was canceled, we still have no idea what will happen to her or even what is happening to her. It appears that she is still in foster care at the moment, but as I reported here, a blackout has been placed on her case by the court, leaving open the possibility that she could be returned to her parents without public knowledge.

Friday, November 13, 2009


How depressing, but true. And yet there's something so satisfying and even rather darkly amusing about having someone else say it.

If a group called Muslim Jihad Warriors to Destroy the West set off a nuclear bomb and destroyed a city, Bob Schieffer would interview Lindsey Graham and Graham would say in his stupid sentimental voice, "Muslims have served in our armed forces, and some have died. These are good people," and Schieffer would add that of course Christians have done all kinds of terrible things, and they would both agree that it's crazy to blame Muslims for this, that such thoughts have no place in America.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Rifqa Bary update--secret court proceedings taking place

Rifqa Bary's hearing on the 16th (this is the hearing on her parents' claim that she is an incorrigible child) has been postponed to December 22nd. However, there is no guarantee that the date will not be changed again or a final decision made on returning her to her parents at some undisclosed time. Pamela Geller has learned somehow that hearings of some kind have already been taking place on Rifqa's case in Ohio with the public unable to know anything about them. Pamela has evidently been unable to learn what has happened at these hearings or whether Rifqa could now be secretly returned to her parents without the public's knowledge. Could she perhaps even be whisked away by her parents to Sri Lanka without our knowing? It does not seem so far-fetched, given the secrecy thus far. So not only is Rifqa herself unable to communicate what is going on, the public seems unable to find out either and shed a light on proceedings. This is very bad.

Pamela's rally on Rifqa's behalf on November 16 will take place as planned.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wow, that's some admission

In this article we find quotations from a liberal journalist, John Cassidy, admitting that Obamacare won't work economically as promised but that the real goal is to "make America a more equitable country." (Why did I have to use Google to find the article by Cassidy? Why didn't the WSJ do that for me and provide a link? Anyway, here's the whole piece by Cassidy.) Cassidy says that "expanding health-care coverage now and worrying later about its long-term consequences is an eminently defensible strategy" and also that some "subterfuge" may be necessary for the desirable end of establishing an entitlement program that will be hard to dislodge later.

This reminds me of the old story about Russia. A Russian peasant picks up a bottle and rubs it, and out pops a genie. The genie offers him a wish, at which point the peasant goes into a long complaint about how unfair it is that his neighbor Ivan has a goat while the peasant with the genie bottle has no goat. "Oh, I see," says the genie. "Then your wish is that I would give you a goat, too?" "No!" says the peasant. "That's not it at all. I want Ivan's goat to die!"


Sunday, November 08, 2009

Compassion and homosexual activism

Many of us have friends who have homosexual inclinations, or we have had such friends at some time in the past. Part of the success of the agenda of homosexual activists lies in making use of this fact after blocking off the possibility of real compassion consistent with traditional and Christian ethics. Those who have homosexual friends are made to feel that they are betraying those friends and are not showing love and compassion for them if they say that homosexual behavior is a sin or if they take such behavior or feelings into account in any way in public interactions (aka "discrimination").

Real, Christian compassion for people with same-sex attraction involves the assertion that such attraction is objectively disordered, which leads one to see the attraction as a tragedy and a burden in the first instance. Indulging and acting on it, on the traditional understanding, is a sin, but it is, of course, a sin that can be both resisted and, when committed, forgiven. All these theological and moral ideas lie at the heart of Christian compassion for people with homosexual feelings.

But the concept of compassion for people with same-sex attraction has been co-opted, even within the Christian world, by those who believe, even when they don't argue, that the only way to be compassionate is, in fact, not to be compassionate. Here's what I mean: If you don't think that same-sex attraction is objectively disordered, there is no point in feeling sorry for a person who suffers from it. In fact, you don't think of him as "suffering" from it at all. And if he is unhappy, you certainly aren't permitted to view his same-sex attraction as being in itself a cause of even part of his unhappiness. Hence the only way a liberal can feel sorry for a person with same-sex attraction is to assume that he is a victim--in other words, to heap blame upon traditional sexual morality and to drum up dislike and anger toward those who accept that morality. And that really isn't compassion. It's treacly liberal victimology and sentimentalism, but it isn't compassion.

It behooves me at this point not to beat around the bush. (Everyone knows how prone I am to beat around the bush.) As hinted at above, if you believe and say openly that same-sex desires are objectively disordered, you will be likely to support the legitimacy of discrimination on that basis in various cases. You will probably support the legitimacy of discrimination even on the basis of the desires without the actions in a number of easily-identified situations, particularly those where the sexes are segregated intentionally, and also those where one wants to be able to rely on one's employees to uphold a certain moral standard. In the latter case, one might justifiably reason that a person with strong same-sex desires is particularly likely to act on those desires and thus compromise the particular moral atmosphere of one's organization. This would be all the more likely if the person thought that his desires were definitely normal and just happened not to be acting on them at the moment. And, of course, if one believes that homosexual acts are sinful, one might very well not want references to such acts to be brought into one's business, and there would be many situations in which one would discriminate on the basis of active homosexual behavior in business relations.

But we've been taught that it is downright mean, even wicked, to refuse someone a job, and still more to refuse him (and his "partner") an apartment, on the basis of such a consideration, and being mean, of course, is the opposite of being compassionate.

I'm afraid there is nothing for it but for Christians to get their thoughts clear on this matter and to stop promoting the liberal lies that pass for compassion. Doing so is helping no one, least of all homosexuals themselves.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

A loss for the good guys on the ordinance

I promised that I would update my readers on our local politics. Being a pessimist, I was not terribly surprised that the homosexual and transgender special rights ordinance passed in my town, though that had not stopped me from working steadily against it. This story is particularly timely in this connection. I just saw it yesterday and plan to blog more about it soon. The skies are darkening, and as Scott W. says, you can try remaining silent, like Thomas More, but it may not work forever.

A small victory against the bullies on the other side yesterday is owing to Pastor __________ of a local Christian Reformed Church. (This does not identify him, as it is nearly impossible to throw a rock in my town without hitting a Christian Reformed Church.) His church is a polling place, and yesterday the homosexual activists planted a "Vote Yes" sign right next to the church driveway. This despite the fact that most of the church members were definitely "Vote No" people, though the church had no signs up. The activists had carefully measured, and the sign was outside the 100 foot zone from the door of the church, but that of course doesn't change the fact that outside that zone was private property, and by sticking the sign in the ground on church property, they were making it look like the church endorsed the ordinance. I became aware of the situation and phoned Pastor __________. (He is not my pastor, and I'd never spoken with him, but I know quite a number of the people in his church as local friends and neighbors.) I had to leave a message, and I came away saying, discouraged, "They're gonna tell him he has to allow them to have the sign on his property because it's a polling place, as long as it's outside the 100 foot zone, and that's going to be the end of it."

But I had reckoned without Pastor _________'s principle and persistence. I got the whole story later. Of course, the activists did try exactly that line. Indeed, when he told them, "This is private property," they said, "Not today. Today it's a polling place." Why that should require the permission of partisan electioneering on the property remains a mystery to this hour! The ACLU was firmly on the side of the activist bullies, and every time the pastor came back (sometimes from conversations with the City Attorney, who was apparently just trying to interpret and apply the law correctly) and told them they had to take out the sign, the head activist would say, "That's not what my lawyer says." The lawyers went back and forth and eventually called the state election officials in Lansing. The upshot was that the activists were required to take the sign out of the ground so that it was not associated with the church but were permitted to carry it as an expression of their own views.

I still don't fully understand why they had to be allowed to do this in the church parking lot and couldn't at least be required to move to the public sidewalk, but they had attempted to brazen the matter out and associate the church willy-nilly with their own position by planting a sign on church property, and they did not win that little battle. Pastor ________ also now knows the scoop if something like this comes up again. He spent several hours of his day making phone calls, dealing with unpleasant people, and not giving in to the bluffing tactics of the activists coached by the ACLU, and I apologize to him for having assumed he would give up.

I drove past the church after dark last evening but before the polls were closed. In the parking lot was one person holding up a Vote Yes sign. And next to the driveway was an elderly man holding up a Vote No sign. Bless him. I should have stopped and said something encouraging to him. Wish I had.

For us there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Blessed All Saints

Having forgotten to change the clocks last night, I found myself with an extra hour this morning--riches! I used part of it for practicing "For All the Saints" for our church service. I'm the organist--sort of. For some reason, I have never adjusted to my "new" glasses (during the past year) and have to play without them, so piano and organ playing are a challenge and require a little extra practice. It's a wonderful, wonderful song.

I looked around for a good Youtube video of it to embed and shall post that below. One of the Youtubes for "For All the Saints" had the song over a pretty long video clip from some movie or other of Christians being fed to lions. I only got as far as the point where the lions and leopards were pacing around in their cages and then opted out of the rest of the clip. The Christians had little kids with them whom I didn't want to see get eaten. But though I didn't find anything that was the Platonic ideal of "For All the Saints," there was quite a good one, and I'll put that up.

Please see my past All Saints posts here and here, and feel free to comment on them either in their original threads or here.

For church this morning I will be playing "The Church's One Foundation" for the prelude. I love the words to that as well. Here are two of my favorite verses:

Though with a scornful wonder
Men see her sore oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder,
By heresies distressed:
Yet saints their watch are keeping,
Their cry goes up, “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping
Shall be the morn of song!

Yet she on earth hath union
With God the Three in One,
And mystic sweet communion
With those whose rest is won,
O happy ones and holy,
Lord, give us grace that we
Like them the meek and lowly
On high may dwell with thee.

There is, by the way, a long history of "The Church's One Foundation" having to do with a fight against heresy in the 19th century. Or at least, so I recall hearing. My husband and brother-in-law know a lot more about it than I do. Samuel J. Stone, who wrote the words, was an Anglican clergyman and was considered "high" for his time but was not evidently a really dyed-in-the-wool Newmanite, either. A via media guy with some high-ish leanings, I gather. Anyway, I pray that God will give us grace so to follow his good example, etc., as the Cranmerian remembrance of the dead says in the Prayer Book.

In one of those earlier posts, I said that I especially thought of Helen Berhane, a Christian singer in Eritrea who was imprisoned by the Communist government in a shipping container in Africa for her faith. (At the time that I wrote the post, I was unsure about the government of Eritrea but have since researched it--Communist.) That was with regard to the line "Thou in the darkness drear their one true light" in "For All the Saints." Naturally, this year, I am especially thinking of our sister in Christ Rifqa Bary, in a much gentler but also real imprisonment here in the United States. Though to her it must seem that she is cut off from the Body of Christ, yet it is not so, for we are all one Body united by the same Spirit under one Head who is the Lord Jesus Christ. In him we are one, and if that bond gives us communion even with those who have died in the Lord, how much more does it unite us to those who are still alive at this time, though separated from us by persecution? May the Lord Christ be Rifqa's light in the darkness and her Captain in the well-fought fight.

I post here again Cranmer's wonderful collect for the day as well as the Proper Preface with the Sanctus, and I am struck as always by the way that the Protestant Cranmer (and I mean that as a compliment) captures the concept of the communion of the Saints without in any way compromising his Protestantism. Truly, God blessed the Church by giving her Thomas Cranmer and especially Thomas Cranmer's liturgy.

The collect for All Saints:

O Almighty God, who has knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord; Grant us grace so to follow thy blessed Saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those unspeakable joys which thou has prepared for those who unfeignedly love thee; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The proper preface, with the Sanctus:

Who, in the multitude of thy Saints, hast compassed us about with so great a cloud of witnesses, that we, rejoicing in their fellowship, may run with patience the race that is set before us, and, together with them, may receive the crown of glory that fadeth not away.

Therefore with Angels and Archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify thy glorious Name; evermore praising thee, and saying,

HOLY, HOLY, HOLY, Lord God of hosts, Heaven and earth are full of thy glory: Glory be to thee, O Lord Most High.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Local politics

The vote on a new ordinance here in my town is coming up on Tuesday. This ordinance would add "sexual orientation and gender identity" to the town's non-discrimination statutes. Translation: Inter alia, you have to hire a guy who insists on wearing a dress and being called "Diane," even if your business is selling ice cream to little kids and your customers will understandably be disgusted and go to your lucky competitor who hasn't had a cross dresser apply.

There's a lot more to it, of course. It's interesting to see how even though this ordinance is partly about punishing people (businesses, in particular) who refuse to get on-board with the homosexual agenda, in reality the homosexual activist agenda is "so last year." Transgender rights are the latest thing.

And by the way, I would like here to say, "Shame on you" to our local Family Christian Stores store, which has shown not the slightest support for the Vote No campaign. Worse: Back in the summer, we were collecting signatures to send this to the ballot rather than having it rammed through merely on the vote of our very liberal city commission. The protest signatures put a temporary stay on the ordinance and gave us the chance to fight another day, with the voters as a whole. I went to the local Family Christian Store to ask if I could simply find out if their employees live in the city limits and get their signatures if they wanted to sign. It would have taken a big five minutes. You should have seen the smirk on the manageress's face as she told me I would have to "call corporate" in Grand Rapids for permission to make this simple canvassing of the employees. Corporate could not even be bothered to call me back. It was not good. I think frankly that it's a sign of the extent to which leftism is infiltrating evangelicalism in America, especially of the Christian Reformed variety most common in my part of the world.

Please pray for the defeat of the ordinance. I have a few more GOTV calls to make this afternoon. I'll let you know how it ends.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Links and sample letters on Rifqa

There follow a few useful links concerning Rifqa Bary at Atlas Shrugged. I apologize for the format, etc., at Atlas. I find that the page takes a long time to load, and Pamela Geller is not always, shall we say, sensitive in her use of pictures. She also doesn't seem to know how to use the "click here for more" function for posts, and she tends to run too much information together in one post, which makes it hard to sort out visually and makes it look hysterical and less credible than it actually is. But she is in actuality the go-to source on Rifqa's case, the one person who is following the case scrupulously and collecting information all the way along, often doing on-the-ground interviewing and original, exclusive, investigation (such as finding Rifqa's father's immigration documents), and if Rifqa's lawyer and guardian ad litem in Florida had paid attention to Pamela's information and advice more, Rifqa might still be safe(er) in Florida. They really dropped the ball.

So, first, here is an early report of Rifqa's being cut off from phone and Internet. Here is an explanation from Rifqa's friend Jamal Jivanjee of the phony deal Rifqa's parents cut. He also discusses the draconian limits on her communication. How he knows about the deal, I don't know and don't ask, but it at least explains some things. And here is a post containing interesting letters from a family law lawyer from Oregon to the Executive Director of FCCS. Unfortunately, the lawyer is capital-letter-challenged, but he writes good letters other than that--has the legalese down well and knows how similar systems work. (I have some comments in the thread on this 0ne you might want to search for on the page using my name as a search term.)

The e-mail address for Eric Fenner, Executive Director of FCCS, is

There is also some sort of civil rights ombudsman who is supposed to have special charge over the rights of "clients"--in other words, the minors in the care of the FCCS. Here is his contact info:

Kenneth Cohen
Client Rights Officer
Franklin Co. Children Services
855 Mound St.
Columbus, Ohio 43223
Phone No. 614-275-2621
E-mail address:

Direct e-mail:

Here is the letter I wrote to Mr. Fenner (the first guy):

Dear Mr. Fenner:

I am writing to you concerning Rifqa Bary, who is presently in the custody of Franklin County Children’s Services. A news report from the Columbus Dispatch states that you have said you see no reason to believe that Rifqa would not be safe with her parents. This seems an extraordinarily hasty statement and does not seem to reflect an intention to do due diligence on the facts of the case but rather to prejudge it before an investigation has been fully carried out. Your casual comments to the press about this case are consistent with the extraordinarily fast setting of a date for trial on the merits, when Rifqa’s lawyers have just been assigned and are new to the case, and when the case is admittedly complex and difficult. It does not seem that Franklin County is giving this case the careful consideration and prudence that it deserves.

I am writing to urge that Rifqa not be returned to the custody of her parents. In repeated interviews, including interviews with Florida Law Enforcement, Rifqa has described physical and psychological abuse at the hands of her father dating back to her middle school days. She also indicates that her father threatened her in connection with her conversion to Christianity, leading to her decision to run away out of fear of him and the surrounding Muslim community who, she says, were urging him to "deal with" her conversion. She is very frightened of being returned to her parents’ custody, and it is clearly not in her best interests for her to be returned.

A serious problem in connection with Rifqa’s case is the danger that her parents will take her, as a minor, and leave the United States for their native Sri Lanka if she is returned to them. In Sri Lanka, she would not, even when she turns eighteen in nine months, have the rights and freedoms that she would have here in the United States. According to her testimony, her parents expressly threatened to take her back to Sri Lanka to be "dealt with" concerning her apostasy from Islam with methods possibly including institutionalization. This must not be allowed to happen. However, it appears that her parents (and hence Rifqa herself) are now in the United States illegally. This makes it all the more plausible that they would return to Sri Lanka, taking her against her will, if she were returned to them.

Rifqa’s father has stated in an interview with Florida Law Enforcement that he would require her to practice Islam until she turned eighteen. If Rifqa is returned to her father’s custody, she will be under religious coercion as well as being in danger.

Of particular concern is the fact that Ohio Juvenile Magistrate Mary Goodrich, at the request of Atty. Jim Zorn, has restricted Rifqa’s ability to communicate via telephone and Internet, thus causing her to be held incommunicado. This decision seems especially dangerous and outrageous. This is a child in need of protection, and it is impossible to see how her best interests can be served and her safety insured if she is unable to communicate with the outside world. In the United States, one of the ways in which we protect the vulnerable is by making sure that they are not cared for in secret, without the ability to communicate what is happening to them. Moreover, this restriction on Rifqa’s communication has more than a whiff of religious discrimination about it, as it appears that she is particularly being restricted so that she cannot obtain support in her Christian beliefs by being in touch with her Christian friends. I urge that Rifqa’s ability to communicate with others outside her foster situation be restored immediately.

Please be aware that the eyes of the world are watching Rifqa’s treatment at the hands of the Franklin County Children’s Services. It is precisely at your level--at the level of juvenile court magistrates and children’s services workers--that prudence, due diligence, and concern for the best interests of the child enter the equation, so that children are not treated in some mechanical way according to laws insensitive to the specifics of the case. Your department and the judges with whom you work have the authority and hence the responsibility to protect Rifqa, and you will be held responsible for doing so. If she is returned to her parents and deprived of religious freedom, physically harmed, psychologically terrorized, or dragged back to Sri Lanka against her will, the responsibility will belong to the local authorities of Franklin County. Please consider well what you do, and above all, err on the side of protecting this minor child from harm.

Yours sincerely,


Here is the only partially overlapping letter I wrote to Mr. Cohen:

Dear Mr. Cohen,

I am writing to you with regard to the case of Rifqa Bary, a 17-year-old minor now in the custody of Franklin County Children’s Services. Although my greatest concern is that Rifqa not be returned to her parents’ custody, given her plausible allegations of past abuse and threats from her parents and the danger of her being taken out of the United States to Sri Lanka against her will, I have already written to Mr. Eric Fenner about the case more generally and intend here to focus on some matters relating directly to civil rights, as I understand that you are the Client Rights Officer in the civil rights area for FCCS.

One issue of great concern is the fact that Juvenile Magistrate Mary Goodrich, at the request of Atty. Jim Zorn, has restricted Rifqa’s ability to communicate via telephone and Internet. The express intent of this restriction, articulated by Atty. Zorn, is to cut Rifqa off from “other people” in the situation--by which he expressly means friends that Rifqa was communicating with via Facebook and via telephone. I ask you to consider the undeniable disparate impact this will have in the area of religion. Rifqa alleges that her parents threatened her because of her conversion to Christianity, and the friends she wishes to communicate outside her foster care situation will undoubtedly be disproportionately Christian friends, offering her spiritual encouragement and comfort. Her parents desired what Atty. Zorn has asked for, because they believe Christians have been a bad influence on Rifqa. By cooperating in the attempt to isolate Rifqa from friends of a particular religion, the State of Ohio raises the possibility that it is engaging in religious discrimination and depriving Rifqa of her rights to free exercise of religion.

It is, moreover, a serious problem to isolate a child in this fashion, particularly a vulnerable child. In the United States, we generally consider that part of the protection for the vulnerable is that they are able to communicate with others and to tell others if they are being mistreated. Parents who isolated their child, particularly a young woman of seventeen, this thoroughly for an indefinite period of time, would be suspected of having something to hide, and worries would be understandably raised that the child might be mistreated and be unable to obtain help. The outside world will find it very difficult to find out if Rifqa is being pressured or treated in any inappropriate way while in foster care if she is held thus virtually incommunicado. This is not in her best interests, and all the less so as she has now been apparently deprived of the right she enjoyed in Florida to select her own lawyer.

I strongly urge that Rifqa’s ability to communicate with friends, including Christian friends, outside her foster care situation be restored immediately in the name of her civil rights.

Next, I want to ask whether Rifqa is being permitted to see regularly a religious adviser of her choice. Even convicted criminals in jail are permitted visits with their clergymen, who are given prison visitation rights. Rifqa--an honors student who has been convicted of no crime and is in a highly stressful situation-- should have at least the minimal religious exercise rights accorded to a convict.

Also in relation to rights of religious free exercise, I wish to point out that Mr. Bary, Rifqa's father, while denying various statements she has made as to past abuse, actually stated to Florida's Department of Law Enforcement that "because she is still under age and living in his home he believed she should continue to study and practice Islam." This makes it clear that if Rifqa is returned to her parents she will be compelled to practice Islam even while here in the United States, unless she should turn eighteen while still here in the United States. She will not turn eighteen for another nine months.

I also want to raise some due process issues. Mr. Eric Fenner has most inappropriately already commented to the Columbus Dispatch that he cannot see any reason why it would not be safe for Rifqa to be returned to her parents. He should not be prejudging this case in this way, when Rifqa has only just now been transferred into FCCS custody. He should do due diligence first, having in mind always the best interests of the child.

Due process is particularly a matter of concern given what I understand to be the quasi-criminal nature of the proceedings, since Rifqa’s parents are attempting to have her declared an “incorrigible child.” A trial on the merits of the case has been scheduled very rapidly, for Nov. 16, despite the fact that Rifqa has just been assigned new lawyers. It seems that her due process rights may well be violated if her lawyers do not have more time to research and prepare their case in this very complicated matter, involving multiple lines of evidence in multiple areas.

I urge you to do everything in your power for the best interests and safety of Rifqa Bary. If, through negligence and failure of due diligence and due process on the part of FCCS and the Ohio courts, she is returned to her parents and dragged out of the country to Sri Lanka, where she will have no civil rights at all, FCCS and the judge(s) involved will be responsible. It is at the level of Children’s Services that the particulars of the case need to be examined and taken carefully into account. I urge you, like everyone involved at FCCS, to err on the side of caution in safeguarding this young woman.

Best wishes,


If any of my readers would like supporting information on any of the points in the letters or these two posts--more supporting links, for example--feel free to ask.

If you should feel moved to write your own letter to either of these guys, go for it, and feel free to use the info. I've given here.

Above all, pray for her and especially for the trial on November 16.

Please pray for Rifqa

Dear friends,

I've often put up updates about Rifqa Bary at W4, usually with closed comments, because I refuse to deal with Muslim commentators on this issue. This time, W4 seems to be rolling along fine, and I've decided to update here, because I'm reluctant to cover up a new post by a fellow contributor with a comments-closed post of my own. I may yet change my mind on that, though.

Rifqa is in a very serious situation. She has been returned to Ohio, and the Ohio judge has already indicated a tendency to side with her Muslim parents. The judge has summarily ordered, without any investigation of the case (immediately upon Rifqa's return) that she is to be held in foster care without any Internet or cell phone use. This apparently means she is cut off from (literal, physical) contact with the Body of Christ, unless her foster family is Christian, which we have no reason to believe. Her Christian lawyer, whom she chose herself, has evidently been removed from the case, and new lawyers unfamiliar with the case selected arbitrarily for her by the state of Ohio. I have been unable to find out if she is being allowed any visits by a Christian pastor or being allowed to go to church. I would guess not. Even convicted murderers are allowed clergy visits in prison and some degree of free exercise of religion, but this girl has been convicted of nothing and has done nothing but run away from her parents in fear.

Her trial--yes, it is her trial, because the proceedings are quasi-criminal, her parents having filed a case to have her declared an "incorrigible child" and returned to them--has been scheduled quite soon, for Nov. 16, which is scarcely time for her new lawyers to get up to speed, even supposing that they truly want to represent her best interests.

There is great danger that she will be summarily returned to her parents and that they will immediately take her out of the country. In Sri Lanka, they can do what they want to her to pressure her to return to Islam, and turning eighteen next summer will help her not one whit. The Florida judge allowed all this to happen, dropping a requirement he had previously stated that her parents produce their immigration documents. They stonewalled him. Word from a friend of Rifqa has it that her Florida guardian ad litem (who at least really did care for her) was bamboozled along with the judge by a phony "deal" whereby the immigration issue would be dropped and Rifqa returned to Ohio if her parents would promise to leave her alone in foster care in Ohio until she turns eighteen in nine months and is no longer under their control. This deal, however, was completely unenforceable and depended on the parents' good faith, which of course is nonexistent. They reneged on it immediately when the Florida judge (who seemed in general rather sensible and concerned for Rifqa's well-being) surrendered his jurisdiction and ordered her returned to Ohio.

This is all quite terrible. There is something horrible about watching the slow squeeze of legal proceedings against an innocent girl happening before one's very eyes, telling oneself, "This can't happen in America," and then finding that perhaps it can. Of course, I cannot help being reminded of the murder of Terri Schiavo.

Right now, I do not have time to post links here to back up all my points. I will try to do so later so that you can get information in case you want to write to Franklin County Children's Services in support of Rifqa. I may also post the text of the letters I have written thus far.

Meanwhile, please pray for Rifqa.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Grace acronyms

Courtesy of an e-mail from Keith Pavlischek, and courtesy of First Things's Evangel blogger, we have a bunch of exceedingly clever acronyms for the word GRACE. In fairness to First Things blog, I won't just copy the whole thing here. You should go read the whole list over there. But if you're familiar with God's Riches at Christ's Expense, this is a set for every kind of Christian (and/or groups claiming to be Christian, including Barthians and Emergentists) you can imagine. A sense of humor is required to appreciate these, and some knowledge of various Christian denominations and sub-denominations, too. Here are a few of my favorites:

For Open Theists:
God Reconsiders, And Cooperates Exquisitely

For evidentialist apologists:
General Revelation And Convincing Explanations

For presuppositional apologists:
Gospel Repentance Accomplished, Circularity Ensues

For theonomists:
Gospel Requires Absolutely Crushing Enemies

For the emergents:
Generational Resentment Against Conservative Evangelicals

It's hard to choose one best one, but given my present church membership, I shouldn't leave this one unmentioned:

For Anglo-Catholics:
Getting Ritualistic After Cranmer’s Execution


Sunday, October 18, 2009

To clamor never waken

This morning our post-Communion hymn had words from the ancient Syriac liturgy of Malabar (translated, of course). Here are the first two verses:

Strengthen for service, Lord, the hands
That holy things have taken;
Let ears that now have heard thy songs
To clamor never waken.

Lord, may the tongues which ‘Holy’ sang
Keep free from all deceiving;
The eyes which saw Thy love be bright
Thy blessèd hope perceiving.

Unfortunately, the tune for this is just dull as dull can be, which is why I don't provide a link. Any readers familiar with the Anglican hymnal will know what I'm talking about. I wish that someone would re-translate the words and set them to better music.

I was especially struck by the idea here that there is something lost when those who have once been committed to Christ wander away from Him. In contemporary terms, we can think of this in connection with children raised by Christian parents who go off the rails. If you know a child who loves Jesus Christ right now, there is something inside you that cries out, "Oh, Lord, keep them by your side! Don't let those little eyes be defiled, those hands, that body, those ears."

This song applies this idea to all of us. If we have been in the Lord's house and have praised Him, if our hands have taken holy things in Communion, we should pray that God would keep us ever near him and not let us do anything contrary, as the Prayer Book says, to our profession.

The mention of "clamor" particularly struck me, because it can be so hard to find peace and quiet when one leaves one's house nowadays. I admit to leading a sheltered life, and I'm grateful for it. I was in a waiting room this last week for quite a while. Walked in to be confronted in my face by a large TV up high on the wall with flickering images of an ostensibly naked man and woman rolling about in bed together. I never found out what that was all about (not that I wanted to know), because the image switched quickly to some sort of commercial involving someone's breaking an egg. Such is the world of television. I asked at the desk if we had to have the TV on. They said we could turn it off if no one in the room minded. As all the other people were reading (sensible folk) and said they didn't mind, we turned it off.

Fifty minutes of peace ensued. Then one of the girls behind the desk said, "It is too quiet in here!" and turned it back on. By this time, the only people in the waiting room other than me were an older couple, and the woman was apparently trying to doze with her head on her husband's shoulder. So I spoke up: "What's wrong with quiet?" I said in piercing tones. "Quiet is good!" The older woman seconded me, and we got the receptionist to turn off the sound. She justified herself in an ad hoc fashion by saying, "We have to have it on in case someone comes in who wants it." Really? Then why didn't they have it off before I walked in, in case someone came in who didn't want it? But of course, the default position is that it must be on. You vill vatch television, if we have to cram it down your throat. I take a lot of satisfaction out of having at least gotten the clamor silenced by speaking up.

That, I suppose, is a digression from the Syriac liturgy of Malabar. I pray for my readers this week that they would have some peace and some silence, and for all of us that the lips that sang "holy" will be kept free from all that would grieve Our Lord.

Have a good week.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Violent criminals for gun control

Okay, this is a great video.


Actually, I'm told that in the book Will, by G. Gordon Liddy (which I have not read and don't particularly want to read), there is a conversation with a career criminal in which he says several of these very things.

HT Rich Gelina

Friday, October 09, 2009

New post at W4 on organ procurement

Here is the post at W4 that I have been working on. It highlights one problem apiece with each of the only two methods for procuring usable vital organs. In each case there are very real concerns as to whether the dead-donor rule is being followed or indeed whether it can be followed.

There is a danger in pointing this out: Because almost no one is ready to conclude that organ transplant should be abandoned, and because most non-Christian ethicists and scientists hold implicitly or explicitly to some sort of personhood theory that makes them dislike the dead-donor rule anyway, this may be used as an excuse for ditching the dead-donor rule and harvesting anyone who is severely cognitively disabled rather than ditching organ transplant. In fact, that's exactly what's happening, as I pointed out here.

But the truth will out anyway. Actually, it's the very ghouls who are pushing for ditching the dead-donor rule who are in some cases telling us these unpleasant facts, so there's no point in our hiding them from ourselves and from the public lest worse befall. Better for pro-lifers to know all the facts and guide their own actions and ideas accordingly.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Change in posting protocols

Dear friends,

I'm trying a change to registered user only comments. I think that this does not require you to have a blogger ID. It says "including OpenID." What I am attempting to cut out is anonymous commentators. If you are a friend, a regular reader, or indeed anyone but a troll, feel free to make contact with me (you will know how to find my e-mail address or will already have it) if you have trouble commenting under the registration protocol, and we will work something out. I'm making this change because of the anonymous troll--whom I believe I have identified--who stopped by on the previous thread.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Just don't send your kids to public school, okay?

You've probably heard about this already, but here are links to no less than three songs (the first link contains two songs) that public school children were taught earlier this year praising Dear Leader. The first two songs were at the same school in New Jersey. I haven't found out in what school the other one was made. Here's a story about the two New Jersey songs. Here is more about the school's unabashedly partisan politics.

The lyrics are pretty incredible, especially the part that says, "He said red, yellow, black or white/All are equal in his sight." That was supposed to be, er, Jesus. The line is borrowed from "Jesus Loves the Little Children"--"Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight." But hey, God, god, Obama. All the same, right?

It's funny how liberals always talk about context when it can fuzzify an issue but never want to talk about it when it is clarifying. Conservatives thought there was maybe something a little creepy about Obama's speech to school children being as it was followed by a "study guide" including questions like, "How can you help the President?" Liberals said, "What? What? Reagan gave a speech to school children." And conservatives tried to point out that there wasn't this kind of brain washing personality cult about Reagan among the controllers of children's education. But nobody was listening.

Now you know why we think there's something creepy about Obama's connection to school children. Because of context.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Great prayer

Wow, here's a great prayer that I just ran across on this Catholic blog, which was in turn linked by Jeff Culbreath.

Here's the prayer:

Lord, Thou knowest better than I know myself that I am growing older and will some day be old. Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion. Release me from craving to straighten out everybody's affairs. Make me thoughtful but not moody; helpful but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all, but Thou knowest, Lord, that I want a few friends at the end.

Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point. Seal my lips on my aches and pains. They are increasing, and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tales of others' pains, but help me to endure them with patience.

I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a lessening cock-sureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken. Keep me reasonably sweet; I do not want to be a Saint - some of them are so hard to live with - but a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the devil. Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people.
And, give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Silence forbidden--TV abuse permitted in nursing homes

We have some neighbors we like very much. J. and his wife B. are in their eighties. A few years ago, Eldest Daughter did a wonderful series of recorded interviews with J. about his service in WWII. Truly the great generation.

Up until now, except for one short temporary stay on the part of J., J. and B. have remained independent in their own home with the help of their children and grandchildren who live locally. But now B. has developed such problems walking and getting up and down that she is--Lord willing, temporarily--having to stay in a nursing home, at least until she can get enough strength through physical therapy to get around at home once more. Her husband just doesn't have the physical strength to help her in and out of bed, to the bathroom, in and out of a wheelchair, etc.

Turns out she is being driven crazy by a roommate who leaves the TV on from 8 a.m. until past 11 p.m. Roommate won't communicate, or can't, and the nurses refuse to turn the TV off until later than 11. Apparently there is no rule about this, though the management has admitted there probably should be.

To me, this is nearly the equivalent of torture, at least for a totally innocent person like B. (Note: I'm not saying it would be wrong to play a TV from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. if it would get KSM to talk about terror plots.) But seriously, I'm horrified. I need quiet in my own life, and I could stand a lot, perhaps even the exile of a nursing home, if I were at least allowed to concentrate on a book or on prayer and reflection. But that all day, every day, no silence, no peace, and no one willing and able to's awful to think of.

And I've heard that it could be worse. A church friend says her mother-in-law's roommate at a nursing home leaves the TV on all night. So no respite at all. That home has a rule, but it's not enforced. The nurses refuse to do anything.

I know there are much worse and more important things to be thinking about concerning the care of the elderly and nursing homes, but this really bugs me. Isn't there anyone sensible and humane in charge who would at least pair residents up according to their TV preferences? Perhaps designate a few rooms for people who prefer quiet? Surely with even a small amount of creativity and good will, people like B. and the mother-in-law could be spared this. If nothing else, getting good sleep at night is important for health, strength, and recovery from illness.

Meanwhile, I wish there were something more practical I could do than putting up a horrified blog post. Maybe there is. I've heard about this product called TV-B-Gone. I wonder if B. would use it if I managed to smuggle one in...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Michael Card--"Walking on the Water"

Via Eldest Daughter, here is a fun bluegrass-style song from Michael Card. It's about the Apostle Peter and is called "Walking on the Water." (I haven't figured out how to embed from this site yet. It isn't as simple as Imeem.) If you like country music, bluegrass, etc., you'll like it. I'm also told, by ED herself, that the banjo in this number is played by none other than Bela Fleck, and if that doesn't get you over to listen to it, you don't like banjo.

Well, whaddaya know: Thanks to Bill Luse, who helped me do the embed.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Great condensation of the President's speech on health care

I ought to write something profound about 9/11, but I cannot think of anything profound to say all by my lonesome. At W4 it has been done much better.

I also ought to, and plan to, put up a post about the murder of a pro-life sign-holder here in Michigan. I plan to do that at W4, most likely tomorrow.

In the meanwhile, via VFR, here is an absolutely hilarious condensation of the President's speech on health care. Read it for fun. Here are a few favorite bits:
If you have insurance, you’ll be able to keep it. If you don’t, that’s bad, because people who have insurance have to pay for you. That’s not fair to the people who pay insurance. Really, it’s kind of socialistic. So, I’ll make you buy insurance, unless you can’t, in which case I’ll make other people buy it for you.

There’s waste, fraud and abuse in health care, which is why it needs to be taken over by the government.

People who say bad things about my health care plan are liars and dreadful human beings. There needs to be more civility in this discussion. Bush caused 9-11. People who say bad things about my health care plan are trying to scare people, and everybody’s going to die if we don’t get this thing passed now.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Songs to Die for--"Go the Distance"

Indulge me. I'd never heard this song before until my friend Rich posted a clip here of a short version of it by a capella group Return 2 Zero. (Well worth listening to if you like a capella male ensembles at all.)

So, yes, I know (because Eldest Daughter told me) that it came from the Disney movie Hercules, which I'm not at all interested in seeing. And I know it's a bit sentimental. But I like it a lot. For one thing, it appeals to my love of an 80's sound, even though it wasn't written in the 80's. (Very fun electric guitar solo in the middle, and wonderful synthesizer trumpets at the beginning.) Looked all around to find a complete version of it. So here it is: "Go the Distance," sung by Michael Bolton. Try not to be too distracted by the missing apostrophes in the lyrics. It's useful to have the lyrics running in front of you as you listen. Discussion follows.

Note to Bill Luse: You did that great video of "You Raise Me Up" for Easter this year. New assignment--a similarly moving video to go with this one. I suggest images of military homecomings and perhaps a picture or two of Mr. Schindler, who recently went Home to his hero's welcome and was much on my mind while listening to this.

The lyrics are really awfully good. They have an interesting dual quality--an interplay between what E.D. Hirsch calls "meaning" and "significance." It's pretty clear to me that the authors didn't intend a Christian meaning. Probably something more like general inspiration with a hint of a love song. But Christian, and even Greco-Christian tropes (the marathon race) are simply part of Western consciousness, and they couldn't get away from them. The song resembles "You Raise Me Up" in that it can be thought of either as secular or as Christian, and it resembles it as well in expressing some deep human longings that are most satisfied by a Christian world view and by what Christianity promises.

Begin at the beginning:

I have often dreamed of a far-off place
Where a hero's welcome would be waiting for me.
And the crowd will cheer when it sees my face,
And a voice keeps saying, "This is where I ought to be."

Here is C.S. Lewis in "The Weight of Glory," on heaven:

In speaking of this desire for our own far-off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness....I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you--the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence;...We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience....The sense that in this universe we are treated as strangers, the longing to be acknowledged; to meet with some response, to bridge some chasm that yawns between us and reality, is part of our inconsolable secret. And surely, from this point of view, the promise of glory...becomes highly relevant to our deep desire. For glory means good report with God, acceptance by God, response, acknowledgement, and welcome into the heart of things. The door on which we have been knocking all our lives will open at last.
Lewis would have said that the song writer was speaking far more truly and of something far more important than he could possibly understand.

The song also tells us, "I won't look back" and "I know every mile will be worth my while," and it evokes throughout the metaphor of life as a race with an on-looking crowd.

Here is the Epistle to the Hebrews:

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let ue lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith...

And here is the Apostle Paul in the Epistle to the Philippians:
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended; but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

...and to the Corinthians:

Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
...and to the Romans:
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
There is, however, one respect in which the song will not bear a Christian interpretation: It treats one's attainment of the goal--coming to that place where you belong--as entirely a matter of one's own effort. And the Apostle Paul also reminds us,
I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.
Ultimately, it is not within our power, unaided, to "stay on track" and to go the distance. We will fail, every one of us, alone. That is why we need the Author and Finisher of our faith, the One who is able to keep us from falling. Let us look unto Him and go the distance for the crown of life with His help.

A reader's excellent point on pro-growth and pro-life

A reader wrote via e-mail with the following, to my mind excellent, comment apropos of the long threads at W4 about growth, property, "suburban sprawl," etc.

The fact is we went from having less than 200 million people in 1930 to having 300 million in 1990. More now. Where are we supposed to put all these people?

In addition...the total number of households is WAY above 1/3 more than in 1930. Where are we supposed to put all these houses?

The flip side of a pro-life mentality is a pro-growth development policy. Or (just to cover the logical options), a proportionate decrease in living standards.

I just thought that was excellently put. I have zero patience with the to my mind arrogant idea that everyone in the world has a moral obligation, which perhaps can even be pushed or enforced by the government, to live either in crowded cities or on "authentic" subsistence farms. Let the crunchies do that if it pleases them, but the suburbs have been a great boon to a great many people. People have to live somewhere. The idea of crunching (pun intended) them into the cities or spreading them out on preserved small-farm land without the in-between option of the suburbs is inhumane and manifests an inhuman green attitude. At some point, these semi-green conservatives are going to have to make a choice--either they can keep accepting hysterical environmentalist claims that the existence of the suburbs is destroying the oceans (yep), or they can start asking some pointed questions. Either they can maintain their sentimental hatred of Wal-Mart and "sprawl," or they can start thinking in terms of what is actually best for all the human beings who live in this country.

Meanwhile, I think we're very blessed to have options.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Robert Schindler, RIP

Wesley J. Smith tells us of Robert Schindler's death. This is the moment when one really wants to be able to pray something or other for the dead. I have a lot of affection for the way the Prayer Book does it:

And we also bless thy holy Name for all thy servants departed this life in thy faith and fear; beseeching thee to grant them continual growth in thy love and service, and to give us grace so to follow their good examples, that with them we may be partakers of thy heavenly kingdom. Grant this, O Father, for Jesus Christ's sake, our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen.

For Mr. Schindler, Bill Luse says it best: Now he can hold his daughter again. Amen.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Oh, THAT rule of law

I don't suggest that you go and read this whole editorial in the Orlando Sentinel. It's pretty slimy. (Sample--he refers to Terri Schiavo's parents as "wanting to maintain her mindless body." Nice guy.) Pamela Geller eviscerates it here, and while I can't entirely approve of her language (though it could be worse) and wish she'd ease off on the boldface and caps, I approve of her passion. It's about the Rifqa Bary case. The author, Mike Thomas, is a toady for the Muslim lobby. The ending is pretty striking though. As in, horrifying. I kid you not, this is how it ends, word for word, cut and pasted from the editorial:
Fortunately, we have a rule of law to protect individuals from the political passions and religious doctrine of others. It is what separates us from Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The rule of law blocked Gov. Jeb Bush from imposing his personal beliefs in the Terri Schiavo case.

The rule of law sent Elián González back to his father.

And ultimately, the rule of law will send Rifqa back to Ohio.

Oh, that rule of law. Gotcha.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Obamacare and abortion

Per Bill Luse's suggestion here, I have posted here a piece on Obamacare and abortion. The short version is, yeah, it looks like it will pay for abortions, but with an accounting fig leaf thrown in to make it look like it doesn't. And the Commissioner (remember him?) gets to decide how much of the premiums is going for abortion coverage. And in an even stranger twist (see the update), poor people who get the "public option" may even be required to pay a bit extra so that the plan can contain full abortion coverage while claiming that federal money isn't paying for it.

Addendum to that post: Michael Gerson puts the point pretty well here:

[T]his is a cover, if not a con. By the nature of health insurance, premiums are not devoted to specific procedures; they support insurance plans. It matters nothing in practice if a premium dollar comes from government or the individual -- both enable the same coverage. If the federal government directly funds an insurance plan that includes elective abortion, it cannot claim it is not paying for elective abortions.

And as NRLC points out here, the government will be collecting and funneling even the "private" premiums to the "private" insurance plans. This fits with my impression of the bill here, according to which it would be the federal government who made the contracts with "health care exchange" insurance plans. So the money is passing through the government's hands anyway, making the distinction between "premiums" and "subsidies" even more artificial.

I've also just updated the W4 post to include some additional information about the "public option" and abortion coverage. Update is at the end of the post.

HT Keith Pavlischek for link to Gerson article