Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Is NATFHE run by racists?

In Britain, according to CNSNews, members of the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE, 67,000 members) voted to take a stand against what they consider a terrible injustice.

Which injustice might that be? Perhaps the enslavement of Christians by Muslims in Sudan, or the selling of kidnapped children from Christian villages in Pakistan in order to fund Islamic terrorism? Maybe it was Iran’s funding of terrorism, their pursuit of nuclear weapons and their threats to destroy Israel? Or perhaps NATFHE is upset with Palestinians who blow up innocent Jewish women and children and seek to destroy Israel?

None of the above. Instead, NATFHE chose to boycott the work of their academic colleagues in Israel unless Jewish academics publicly distance themselves from their nation’s policies regarding the West Bank and Palestinians. Out of all the nations of the earth that perpetrate real or imagined injustices, why did NATFHE single out Jews for punishment?

But forget issues of discrimination, racism, anti-Semitism, censorship and academic freedom which are raised by this monumentally stupid decision, the racists in NATFHE who voted for this decision (only a tiny number actually voted) apparently want Jewish scholars to ignore the fact that Palestinians regularly blow up innocent Jewish women and children, and have elected a terrorist government that has as a public objective, the elimination of their country! In the words of St. Paul, “professing themselves to be wise, they became as fools.”

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Abortion and the media

The following are excerpts from a book quoting from Bernard Nathanson, M.D., one of the leading founders of the abortion rights movement in America:

“The original abortion-rights slogans from the early ‘70s—they remain virtual articles of faith and rallying cries of the ‘pro-choice’ movement to this day—were ‘Freedom of choice’ and ‘Women must have control over their own bodies.”

“I remember laughing when we made those slogans up,’ recalls Bernard Nathanson, M.D., cofounder of the pro-abortion vanguard group NARAL…We were looking for some sexy, catchy slogans to capture public opinion”

“In 1968 I met Lawrence Lader,’ says Nathanson. ‘Lader had just finished a book called Abortion, and in it had made the audacious demand that abortion should be legalized throughout the country.”

“Lader and I were perfect for each other. We sat down and plotted out the organization now known as NARAL. With Betty Friedan, we set up this organization and began working on the strategy.”

“We persuaded the media that the cause of permissive abortion was a liberal, enlightened, sophisticated one,’ recalls the movement’s co-founder. ‘Knowing that if a true poll were taken, we would be soundly defeated, we simply fabricated the results of fictional polls. We announced to the media that we had taken polls and that 60 percent of Americans were in favor of permissive abortion. This is the tactic of the self-fulfilling lie. Few people care to be in the minority. We aroused enough sympathy to sell our program of permissive abortion by fabricating the number of illegal abortions done annually in the U.S. The actually figure was approaching 100,000, but the figure we gave to the media repeatedly was 1 million.”

“Repeating the big lie often enough convinces the public. The number of women dying from illegal abortions was around 200-250 annually. The figure we constantly fed to the media was 10,000. These false figures took root in the consciousness of Americans, convincing many that we needed to crack the abortion law.”

“Another myth we fed to the public through the media was that legalizing abortion would only mean that abortions taking place illegally would be done legally. In fact, of course, abortion is not being used as a primary method of birth control in the U.S. and the annual number of abortions has increased by 1,500 percent since legalization.”

(Bernard Nathanson, quoted from The Marketing of Evil by David Kupelian. WND Books, 2005, 190-191).

Friday, May 26, 2006

Hatred at the University of Oregon

In March, the campus newspaper of the University of Oregon ran depictions of a naked, crucified Jesus with an erection! Another picture showed a naked Jesus kissing another naked man, both with erections!

I’m sure those who published this hatred thought they were being daring and bold, but I’m equally sure they wouldn’t dare publish anything so offensive toward homosexuals, African Americans, Hispanics, or especially against Muslims! It’s relatively safe to spew vicious hatred against Christians, though.

Some people’s view of tolerance seems to be that that everyone else should tolerate every sick perversion their evil minds can imagine—and in this case, not only be forced to tolerate it, but be forced to pay for it though student fees!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Da Vinci Code and the New Testament

According to The Da Vinci Code, “More than eighty gospels were considered for the New Testament, and yet only a relative few were chosen…the Bible as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine the Great” (231).

Once again, a few corrections are in order. First, just to be more precise, the number of ancient gospels in existence is actually closer to thirty, not eighty. What Brown is referring to are the Gnostic documents found in 1945 at Nag Hammadi, most of which are not gospels.

Second, Constantine facilitated the production of about 50 New Testaments, but he had nothing to do with the contents. Not only that, but the Council of Nicea, over which Constantine presided, had nothing to do with the formation of the New Testament.

Third, although the boundaries of the New Testament were still in dispute during Constantine’s time, the essential core had been agreed on for over two hundred years—long before any councils met to discuss the issue. This core included Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, First and Second Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, First and Second Thessalonians, First and Second Timothy, Titus, First Peter, First John…and most churches even agreed on Revelation. Cyprian (d. 258), Origen (d. 254), Tertullian (d. 212), Muratorian Canon (late 2nd century; omits First Peter), and Irenaeus (d. 195) all accepted this core including Revelation. None of the Nag Hammadi documents are ever included, probably because including these in the church’s Bible would be like including “gangsta rap” in our hymnals :-)

Some of these authors accepted more than this core. Irenaeus, for example—fully 130 years before the Council of Nicea—quotes extensively from almost every book in our New Testament. Irenaeus calls these books “Scripture,” indicating his belief that they were inspired by God, and he even calls them the “New Testament” (twice). Further, Irenaeus seems to see no need to argue that these books belong to the New Testament—their acceptance as Scripture is so widespread that he just takes it for granted that all will agree. In fact, what really irritates Irenaeus is not that the “heretics” reject his New Testament—they don’t—but that they rip passages out of context and make words and phrases mean things they couldn’t possibly have meant in their original context. For example, the heretics often take Greek words that St. Paul uses and turn them into names for their numerous gods, something that would have appalled St. Paul!

Irenaeus quotes from every book in the modern New Testament except Philemon, James, 2 Peter, and 3 John. Altogether these books make up only about six pages out of about 230 pages in a modern New Testament. The fact is that we don’t know whether Irenaeus rejected these books or whether he just didn’t have occasion to quote from them because they are so small.

All over the Roman Empire the church seemed to agree on this core. Other New Testament books, like Hebrews (10 pages), James (3 pgs), 2 and 3 John (1 pg), and Jude (1 pg), for example, were accepted by some churches but questioned by others even into the fourth century. Some books once considered sacred by some churches were eventually rejected, including the Didache, the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas. None of these are part of the Nag Hammadi documents and they have certainly never been suppressed!

Even before Irenaeus, there are hints that the Gospels and Paul’s letters were accepted as Scripture. For example, Valentinus (a Gnostic leader, 1st half of 2nd century) cites Matthew, Luke, John, Paul’s letters (except 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus), Hebrews and Revelation as authoritative. Tatian (a Gnostic, d. 172) produced a harmony of the Gospels—which included only Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Justin (d. 175) referred to the “memoirs of the apostles” and scholars agree that he was referring to the four biblical gospels.

In the letter known as Second Peter, dated by scholars as early as AD 60’s to 130’s—over 200 years before the Council—the author puts all of Paul’s letters in the category of Scripture. The author of First Timothy (5:18), dated from the AD 60’s to 80’s, writes, “For the Scripture says,” and quotes from a phrase found only in Luke 10:7. Also in the first century, a church leader know as Clement of Rome quotes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew—though it is not clear whether he is quoting from Matthew or from oral tradition. There is no such ambiguity in the letter of Barnabas, however, which was written in the first or second centuries and clearly quotes from the Gospel of Matthew as scripture.

The point of all this is that the impression is sometimes given by Dan Brown (who is clueless) and some scholars who know better, that the New Testament was created almost from scratch in the fourth century by some powerful Christian bishops who met to consider eighty gospels, but who kept only those that agreed with their views and kicked all the others out. This is pure nonsense.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Da Vinci Code: Was Jesus Married?

According to The Da Vinci Code, “the marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene is part of the historical record…social decorum during that time virtually forbid a Jewish man to be unmarried…if Jesus were not married, at least one of the Bible’s gospels would have mentioned it and offered some explanation for His unnatural state of bachelorhood” (245).

Not only are the Gospels silent about Jesus being married, nothing is written about him being married in the rest of the New Testament or any other early Christian writing either. Of course, if you buy into the conspiracy theory that the church was trying to suppress the “truth” you may think this is irrelevant, but you should also know that none of the so called “lost gospels” that the church supposedly “suppressed” say anything about Jesus being married either.

Nevertheless, we're all supposed to believe that Jesus was married because the Gospels don’t say he was! While most men were married in Jesus day social decorum did not forbid singleness—the Essenes, for example, were a Jewish group that usually remained unmarried. But even if social decorum pressured men to get married, Jesus was not particularly known for following social decorum.

Another reason given for believing that Jesus’ was married is because the Gospel of Philip—written in the 3rd century AD—says that Jesus’ “companion” was Mary Magdalene and, according to The Da Vinci Code, “As any Aramaic scholar will tell you, the word companion, in those days, literally meant spouse” (246).

This is actually kind of funny because the Gospel of Philip wasn’t written in Aramaic! It was originally written in Greek, and then translated into Coptic (and Egyptian language). The word “companion” both in Coptic and in Greek is koinonos, which means friend, partner, or companion—but not spouse. Both Greek and Coptic have words for spouse or wife and koinonos is not it. While it is true that your spouse should be your companion, not all your companions are your spouses—well, we hope not anyway or you may have some legal issues.

So let’s turn this argument on its head. Suppose that an essential, fundamental doctrine of Christianity depended on Jesus’ marriage to Mary Magdalene. To support this doctrine, the church’s only evidence is to appeal to the fact that the New Testament is silent on the subject and that a single document, written two hundred years after the time of Jesus says that Mary was his “companion.” If this was our only evidence, critics would rightly laugh us out of court, so to speak.

On the other hand, the Gospel of John records that when Jesus was being crucified he assigned the care of his mother to his disciple, John. According to the Gospel of John, Mary Magdalene was at the foot of the cross at that time so if he had been married, it is pretty remarkable that the writer would have Jesus being concerned about the care of his mother, but apparently caring nothing for his wife! Conspiracy theorists could argue that Jesus’ marriage to Mary was suppressed out of a desire to demonize Mary, but that’s ridiculous—the church has always held Mary Magdalene in high regard.

So where does this idea of Jesus’ marriage come from? It seems that the whole thing was made up in the 1960’s or 1970’s by a Frenchman named Pierre Plantard who once served time for fraud. He fabricated supposedly ancient documents claiming that he was a descendant of Jesus! When one of his associates committed suicide, Plantard was investigated and ended up confessing under oath that the papers were a fraud. The lies in these fraudulent documents were picked up in the book Holy Blood, Holy Grail and then borrowed from there for Dan Brown’s story.

Both the Judaism in which Jesus lived, and the Christianity which developed after Jesus, had a very high view of marriage and of sex within marriage—so there is no reason why Jesus couldn’t have gotten married if he had so desired, or why the church would have wanted to suppress such a thing if it was true. Personally, I would prefer that he had been married, but, unlike some writers, I’m unwilling to fabricate “history” to support my preferences.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Da Vinci Code: Jesus as God?

In The Da Vinci Code, Leigh Teabing says to Sophie, “Until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by his followers as a mortal prophet….a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. A mortal. “Not the Son of God?” “Right, Teabing said. “Jesus’ establishment as ‘the Son of God’ was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea…a relatively close vote at that” (233).

A few historical corrections may be in order. First, the vote at the Council of Nicea in AD 325 was not about whether Jesus was in some sense the Son of God. Both sides agreed on that. The question was what, precisely, did that mean. The followers of Athanasius (a black bishop from North Africa—one of my personal favorites) taught that Jesus was God. The other side, headed by Arius (a priest), also worshiped Jesus and taught that Jesus was a divine being—just not the same as God. Neither side thought of Jesus as a mere mortal as The Da Vinci Code claims.

Second, historians are not sure how many bishops attended the Council but the vote was not close, as The Da Vinci Code claims--out of over a hundred bishops, all of them except two sided with Athanasius. (As an aside, I find it amusing how, in the 60’s some black leaders condemned Christianity as a white man’s religion, when in fact the entire course of Christian history was affected by the intellect, dedication and raw courage of Athanasius, a black bishop, who suffered much for his faith).

Third, the idea that no one thought of Jesus as God before this council, is historically absurd. To give just a few examples, just over 100 years before this council met a church leader named Tertullian wrote, “Christ is Spirit of Spirit, and God of God….” Fully 130 years before the Council of Nicea, Irenaeus, a church leader in what is now called France, was commenting on the Gospel of John when he wrote, "and the Word was God,’ of course, for that which is begotten of God is God." About 160 years before the Nicean Council a man named Justin, who was martyred for his faith, wrote, “…the Father of the universe has a Son; who also, being the first-begotten Word of God, is even God.”

About the same time as Justin, another church leader named Polycarp—who, was burned at the stake for his faith—wrote, “our Lord and God Jesus Christ….” About fifty years earlier in his life, Polycarp received a letter from another Christian leader named Ignatius. Ignatius was under arrest on his way to Rome to be executed for his faith when he wrote “I bid you farewell always in our God Jesus Christ.”

In another letter, almost 220 years before the Council, Ignatius wrote that Jesus was “God existing in flesh.” Then there was another Christian writer known only as “Mathates” (Greek for “disciple’), writing some time in the first or second century who likened God to a king saying, “as a king might send his son who is a king; he sent him as God” (Mathates to Diognetus 7).
Even before all this, back into the first century, Paul and the writers of Matthew, Mark, Luke John and the book of Hebrews all affirmed that Jesus was God.

Of course all of these are Christians—do we have any other evidence? Yes! Just over 210 years before the Council there was a Roman governor named Pliny the Younger who had a problem. It seems that Christians were all over his part of the empire like jackrabbits and he wasn’t sure what to do with them so, he started an investigation. In AD 112 he wrote to the Roman Emperor, Hadrian, saying that he found that on a certain day these Christians “were accustomed to come together before daylight and to sing by turns a hymn to Christ as a god.” About the same time a satirical writer named Lucian had nothing but contempt for Christians. Apparently disgusted by their intolerance, he wrote that Christians “deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage….”

Ok, but what about all those writings that the powerful Christian bishops supposedly kicked out of the Bible—the ones that, according to the Da Vinci Code, treat Jesus as just an ordinary man? Well, one of them is called the “Teachings of Silvanus” which says of Jesus, “Although he was God, he [was found] among men as a man.” Another one, known as the “Letter of Peter to Philip” (not the real Peter and Philip) writes, “according to the orders of our God Jesus.” Yet another of these “lost” writings, known as the “Tripartite Tractate” puts Jesus in the holy trinity, writing of “the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Then there is the “Trimorphic Protennoia” which speaks of Jesus as “the Christ, the only-begotten God.”

The fact is that Jesus is treated as a divine being in virtually all of these “lost” documents. In fact, one significant difference between the ideology of these “lost” writings and the theology of the church is that the church viewed Jesus as truly man and God whereas these lost writings generally treated Jesus as divine, but not human! Dan Brown had it completely backwards.

The point of all this, of course, is not to try to prove that Jesus was God, but only to show how historically ridiculous Dan Brown’s claims are. I find it somewhat amazing that some of those who were so outraged about the relatively minor dramatic liberties taken by Mel Gibson in his “Passion of the Christ” don’t seem to mind at all about all the historical travesties in The Da Vinci Code. Why is that?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Da Vinci Code, the movie

Like thousands of other Americans, I contributed to the fortunes of Tom Hanks and Ron Howard Friday by seeing their Da Vinci Code movie which had one of the biggest opening weekends of all time. At times the movie was exciting and kept my attention quite well with mystery, action and suspense. A couple of times the suspense was enough to elicit audible gasps from the audience. At other times I found myself wishing my watch glowed in the dark so I could see how much more of this I had to endure—the movie could have been improved by leaving thirty to forty more minutes on the cutting room floor. The movie followed the plot of the book pretty well but the implausibility’s in the book were sometimes magnified to the point where some of the plot seemed awkward if not just plain dumb.

The anti-Christian bigotry in the book is actually toned down in the movie. Most of the anti-Christian rhetoric comes from Teabing, who ends up looking like a crazy old coot. At times, Tom Hanks character, Robert Langdon, actually tries to soften the force of some of Teabing’s anti-Christian rhetoric and in the end, Langdon even recalls praying to Jesus during a time when he survived a life threatening event.

In the movie, as in the book, an evil albino monk from Opus Dei—there are no monks in Opus Dei—whips himself viciously, leaving deep scars on his back. I was on a panel yesterday with a Catholic seminary professor whose priest is a member of Opus Dei. This professor said that the only thing his Opus Dei priest has encouraged him to do is give up coffee and sugar for a time as a sign of dedication to God. Give up sugar? Are you kidding? I think I’d rather give myself a few whacks on the back! :-)

Overall, the movie was not as in-your-face offensive as the book, but on the other hand, the essential message of the book still came through loud and clear. That message is that Jesus was married, with children, and was never even thought of as God until the fourth century AD when some powerful Christian bishops voted on the matter and then destroyed or eliminated from the New Testament all the many gospels that speak of Jesus as only human and not God. More on this tomorrow.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Selling children to fund terror

UPI and WorldNetDaily are reporting that a group funded by Osama bin Laden was discovered selling “boys taken from Christian villages in Pakistan to fund his terror group.”

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Da Vinci Code and The Khadija Conspiracy

There was some clueless minister on TV yesterday telling everyone that they should “cut Opie a break” and not take The Da Vinci Code so seriously. Like many people, he just doesn’t get it. Let me tell a story to illustrate a point:

Maria was shocked! “You mean the whole thing was a fraud?” she asked. “Yes,” said Abdur. “Last year the private letters of Khadija, Muhammad’s favorite wife, were discovered in the famous ‘Dome of the Rock’ in Jerusalem. The letters have been carbon dated by scientists and proven to be genuine. Just before her death, Khadija wrote letters to her uncle, the King of Abyssinia, and, in pangs of guilt, confessed that she and Muhammad had fabricated the all stories about his visions and the sayings in the Qur’an as a way to seize power in Medina and Mecca.”

“You mean Muhammad wasn’t really a prophet?” asked Maria. “I’m afraid not,” said Abdur. Maria was stunned. “That’s hard to believe,” she responded, “Why haven’t we heard of this before?” “Well,” said Abdur, stroking his beard thoughtfully, “Muhammad’s closest followers intercepted the letters.”

“So they knew the truth!?” Maria interrupted. “Yes, but they didn’t want to reveal the secret because that would have destroyed their own basis for power. On the other hand, they were afraid to destroy letters written by Muhammad’s favorite wife, so they simply hid them in the Dome of the Rock. In the anguish over the “Prophet’s” later death, the letters were soon forgotten.”

“The secret was well hidden until the crusaders conquered Jerusalem. When the Knights Templar discovered the letters and presented the evidence to Saladin, he paid a fortune to purchase the letters and to keep the contents quiet. It is simply a fact of history, my dear, that the Knights Templar went to Jerusalem as poor men, and returned to Europe very wealthy.”

“Anyway,” Abdur continued, “powerful Muslim leaders began hearing rumors that the Knights Templar had secretly kept some of the most incriminating letters. You didn’t think Muslim military expansion was just about power and land, did you, Maria? On the contrary, military force was a desperate attempt to stop the secret from spreading, but when that didn’t work, Rahman II, the Muslim general, traveled secretly across the border to Spain where he met with Philip IV, the King of Aragon.”

“Within days of that meeting, the Knights Templar were summoned to Spain and, upon arrival, were immediately arrested and executed. The remaining letters were confiscated and hidden again in the Dome. In return for Philip’s help, Muslim armies then retreated from the borders of Spain and the secret was finally safe—safe, that is, until the letters were accidentally discovered again last year!”

In the story above, Muhammad, Khadija, Philip IV, the uncle in Abyssinia, the Dome of the Rock, Aragon, Mecca, Medina, the crusades and even the arrest of the Knights Templar are all historical events, people, or places—yet not only is the story entirely fictional it is historically ridiculous, and, if presented seriously it would qualify as a pack of lies.

You see, it is very easy to produce a story that might sound plausible to those who don’t know any better. But for anyone to actually publish a novel like this, and have the audacity to claim, or even to imply, that it was based on fact, would be incredibly malicious, hateful and irresponsible—and Muslims would rightly be outraged.

Yet this is precisely what Dan Brown has done with his Da Vinci Code novel. Make no mistake about it, The Da Vinci Code book is not just fiction, it is either an incredible display of historical ignorance, or it is a vicious pack of lies! Nevertheless, I’ll be the first one in line this afternoon to see the movie and will begin a series of critiques on Monday.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Gambling and crime

Earl L. Grinols of Baylor University and economist David B. Mustard of the University of Georgia “analyzed crime data collected from all 3,165 U.S. counties in the United States from 1977 to 1996 and looked at local crime rates before and after casinos opened.” They discovered that “By the fifth year of operation, robberies were up 136 percent; aggravated assaults, 91 percent; auto theft, 78 percent; burglary, 50 percent; larceny, 38 percent; and rape, 21 percent. Controlling for other factors, 8.6 percent of property crimes and 12.6 percent of violent crimes were attributed to casinos, he said.”

They also determined that “crime rates didn't rise in neighboring counties while they soared in casino counties -- evidence that casinos create crime locally and don't merely attract it from somewhere else.” (“Casino’s and crime; the luck runs out” by Richard Morin, Washington Post, May 11, 2006)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Rewriting history in California

A bill is currently working its way through the California State Legislature (SB 1437) whereby the State would require school history textbooks to include the contributions of Indians, Mexicans, Asians, Pacific Islanders, lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered individuals.

Well, it’s about time! Unfortunately, one group they failed to identify specifically was Norwegians. In all my years of formal education in state schools, I’ve never once heard of the contributions of great Norwegians to American history! My self-esteem has suffered irreparably—surely there must be someone I can sue!

This obvious prejudice and injustice against those of us who are Norwegian-Americans simply must be corrected! Great Norwegians in American history must be recognized, like….hmmm, gee, there must be someone. Oh, yeah, how about the Andrews Sisters who were singers and Hollywood movie stars. They were Norwegian—well, part Norwegian anyway. Surely there must be more. We probably just don’t know about them because of the pervasive culture of marginalization against us Norwegian-Americans!

So let’s see, who can we remove from the history books to make room for the Andrews sisters? I know—we could remove Adolf Hitler! If the California bill were applied to American history as a whole, it might be illegal to include him anyway since Hitler was rumored to be gay and the California bill would make it illegal to include “Any matter reflecting adversely upon persons because of their…sexual orientation.”

I am, of course being facetious, but this bill raises some serious questions: Is it really a good idea for state (or federal) governments to dictate what local school districts must include in the textbooks? Doesn’t a law like this simply invite any group that feels underrepresented (like Norwegians) to file lawsuits? Doesn’t history teach us that governments that start re-writing history are often on the fast track to totalitarianism?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The President on immigration

For those who didn’t catch the President’s speech on immigration last night, below are excerpts from the CNN transcript:

“Good evening. I have asked for a few minutes of your time to discuss a matter of national importance -- the reform of America's immigration system.”

“We are a nation of laws, and we must enforce our laws. We are also a nation of immigrants, and we must uphold that tradition, which has strengthened our country in so many ways. These are not contradictory goals -- America can be a lawful society and a welcoming society at the same time…. So I support comprehensive immigration reform that will accomplish five clear objectives.”

First, the United States must secure its borders. This is a basic responsibility of a sovereign nation. It is also an urgent requirement of our national security.”

“Tonight I am calling on Congress to provide funding for dramatic improvements in manpower and technology at the border. By the end of 2008, we will increase the number of Border Patrol officers by an additional 6,000.”

“At the same time, we are launching the most technologically advanced border security initiative in American history. We will construct high-tech fences in urban corridors, and build new patrol roads and barriers in rural areas. We will employ motion sensors, infrared cameras, and unmanned aerial vehicles to prevent illegal crossings.”

“Training thousands of new Border Patrol agents and bringing the most advanced technology to the border will take time. Yet the need to secure our border is urgent. So I am announcing several immediate steps to strengthen border enforcement during this period of transition:”

“So in coordination with governors, up to 6,000 Guard members will be deployed to our southern border. The Border Patrol will remain in the lead. The Guard will assist the Border Patrol by operating surveillance systems, analyzing intelligence, installing fences and vehicle barriers, building patrol roads, and providing training. Guard units will not be involved in direct law enforcement activities -- that duty will be done by the Border Patrol. This initial commitment of Guard members would last for a period of one year. After that, the number of Guard forces will be reduced as new Border Patrol agents and new technologies come online.

“…we will increase federal funding for state and local authorities assisting the Border Patrol on targeted enforcement missions. And we will give state and local authorities the specialized training they need to help federal officers apprehend and detain illegal immigrants.”

“More than 85 percent of the illegal immigrants we catch crossing the southern border are Mexicans, and most are sent back home within 24 hours. But when we catch illegal immigrants from other countries, it is not as easy to send them home. For many years, the government did not have enough space in our detention facilities to hold them while the legal process unfolded. So most were released back into our society and asked to return for a court date. When the date arrived, the vast majority did not show up. This practice, called "catch and release," is unacceptable -- and we will end it.”

“We have expanded the number of beds in our detention facilities, and we will continue to add more. We have expedited the legal process to cut the average deportation time….As a result of these actions, we have ended "catch and release" for illegal immigrants for some countries. And I will ask Congress for additional funding and legal authority, so we can end "catch and release" at the southern border once and for all.”

Second, to secure our border, we must create a temporary worker program.”

“This program would match willing foreign workers with willing American employers for jobs Americans are not doing. Every worker who applies for the program would be required to pass criminal background checks. And temporary workers must return to their home country at the conclusion of their stay.”

Third, we need to hold employers to account for the workers they hire….. Yet businesses often cannot verify the legal status of their employees, because of the widespread problem of document fraud…. A key part of that system should be a new identification card for every legal foreign worker. This card should use biometric technology, such as digital fingerprints, to make it tamperproof.”

Fourth, we must face the reality that millions of illegal immigrants are already here. They should not be given an automatic path to citizenship…. Amnesty would be unfair to those who are here lawfully, and it would invite further waves of illegal immigration.”

“Some in this country argue that the solution is to deport every illegal immigrant -- and that any proposal short of this amounts to amnesty. I disagree. It is neither wise nor realistic to round up millions of people, many with deep roots in the United States, and send them across the border. There is a rational middle ground….That middle ground recognizes that there are differences between an illegal immigrant who crossed the border recently and someone who has worked here for many years, and has a home, a family, and an otherwise clean record.”

“I believe that illegal immigrants who have roots in our country and want to stay should have to pay a meaningful penalty for breaking the law, to pay their taxes, to learn English, and to work in a job for a number of years. People who meet these conditions should be able to apply for citizenship, but approval would not be automatic, and they will have to wait in line behind those who played by the rules and followed the law.”

Fifth, we must honor the great American tradition of the melting pot, which has made us one nation out of many peoples….. Americans are bound together by our shared ideals, an appreciation of our history, respect for the flag we fly, and an ability to speak and write the English language. English is also the key to unlocking the opportunity of America.”

“Our new immigrants are just what they have always been -- people willing to risk everything for the dream of freedom. And America remains what she has always been -- the great hope on the horizon, an open door to the future, a blessed and promised land. We honor the heritage of all who come here, no matter where they are from, because we trust in our country's genius for making us all Americans -- one nation under God. Thank you, and good night.”

Monday, May 15, 2006

Gay rights vs. religious liberty

“It’s going to be a train wreck,” says Marc Stern, general council for the American Jewish Congress. "Banned in Boston; The coming conflict between same-sex marriage and religious liberty” by Maggie Gallagher (Weekly Standard, May 15, 2006) is an article that every Christian, Jew and Muslim in America who is still faithful to their traditional values needs to read in full. Excerpts appear below:

“Catholic Charities of Boston made the announcement on March 10: It was getting out of the adoption business. “We have encountered a dilemma we cannot resolve. . . . The issue is adoption to same-sex couples.”

“It was shocking news. Catholic Charities of Boston, one of the nation's oldest adoption agencies, had long specialized in finding good homes for hard to place kids.”

“Marylou Sudders, president of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, said simply, "This is a tragedy for kids.”

“So who is right? Is the fate of Catholic Charities of Boston an aberration or a sign of things to come?”

“I put the question to Anthony Picarello, president and general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.”

“Just how serious are the coming conflicts over religious liberty stemming from gay marriage?”
“The impact will be severe and pervasive," Picarello says flatly. "This is going to affect every aspect of church-state relations.’ Recent years, he predicts, will be looked back on as a time of relative peace between church and state, one where people had the luxury of litigating cases about things like the Ten Commandments in courthouses.”

“Generally speaking the scholars most opposed to gay marriage were somewhat less likely than others to foresee large conflicts ahead--perhaps because they tended to find it ‘inconceivable…”
“By contrast, the scholars who favor gay marriage found it relatively easy to foresee looming legal pressures on faith-based organizations opposed to gay marriage…”

“Chai Feldblum…is a Georgetown law professor who is highly sought after on civil rights issues, especially gay civil rights.”

“…the bottom line for Feldblum is: "Sexual liberty should win in most cases. There can be a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases the sexual liberty should win…”

“Marc Stern has known Chai Feldblum since she was eight years old…Chai is among the most reasonable [gay rights advocates],’ he says. ‘If she's having trouble coming up with cases in which religious liberty should win, we're in trouble.”

“As general counsel for the American Jewish Congress, Marc Stern knows religious liberty law from the inside out….Consider education. Same-sex marriage will affect religious educational institutions, he argues, in at least four ways: admissions, employment, housing, and regulation of clubs. One of Stern's big worries right now is a case in California where a private Christian high school expelled two girls who (the school says) announced they were in a lesbian relationship. Stern is not optimistic. And if the high school loses, he tells me, ‘then religious schools are out of business.’ Or at least the government will force religious schools to tolerate both conduct and proclamations by students they believe to be sinful.”

“Future conflict with the law in regard to licensing is certain with regard to psychological clinics, social workers, marital counselors, and the like," Stern wrote last December--well before the Boston Catholic Charities story broke.”

“Will speech against gay marriage be allowed to continue unfettered? ‘Under the American regime of freedom of speech, the answer ought to be easy," according to Stern. But it is not entirely certain, he writes, "because sexual-harassment-in-the-workplace principles will likely migrate to suppress any expression of anti-same-sex-marriage views.”
“Jonathan Turley, the George Washington professor who is a First Amendment specialist, also sees a serious risk ahead.”

“Precisely because support for marriage is public policy, once marriage includes gay couples, groups who oppose gay marriage are likely to be judged in violation of public policy, triggering a host of negative consequences, including the loss of tax-exempt status.”

“Marc Stern is looking more and more like a reluctant prophet: ‘It's going to be a train wreck,’ he told me in the offices of the American Jewish Congress high above Manhattan. ‘A very dangerous train wreck.”

Excerpts from "Banned in Boston; The coming conflict between same-sex marriage and religious liberty” by Maggie Gallagher (Weekly Standard, May 15, 2006)

Friday, May 12, 2006

Censorship and intolerance

Earlier this week I wrote of about a student who was censored and punished for handing out flyers in opposition to the gay/lesbian “Day of Silence.” Not long ago a group who met in San Francisco to promote traditional Christian values, was met by hundreds of protestors with bull horns screaming for them to shut up and go home—and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors took time out of their busy day to officially and publicly condemn the traditional values group.

Recently a church in Boston held a seminar designed to help gay people who want to change their own lifestyle—and the protests outside the church were so angry and vicious the police had to be called in to protect the church members. At William Paterson University a Muslim man responded to an unsolicited e-mail promoting gay movies. He asked not to be included in future e-mails about such “perversions” and was given a letter of reprimand for violating discrimination and harassment regulations.

Two gay faculty members at Ohio State—reportedly supported by the faculty—actually filed sexual harassment charges against a librarian for doing nothing more than recommending a book that exposed a gay marketing strategy. This Spring there was a gay/lesbian group traveling to various Christian Colleges around the country in an attempt to embarrass and intimidate the colleges into changing their religious beliefs and standards. Currently, a private Christian High School in California is being sued for expelling to girls who publicly announced they were lesbian in defiance of school’s religious beliefs and policies.

Because of homosexual intolerance, the one-hundred year old Catholic Charities of Boston, which has specialized in adoptions for hard-to place children, announced last month that they would have to close their doors because of gay/lesbian regulations.

Gay activists gained power precisely by preaching against censorship and intolerance. Now that they have more power, isn't it ironic that some gay activists are promoting censorship and intolerance with a vengeance!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Americans won’t take the jobs…

I wonder what would happen if congress passed legislation that imposed a one to five year prison sentence for any employer that pays employees less than minimum wage—and offered amnesty for any illegal alien (without a criminal record) who provides evidence leading to an employer’s conviction.

I suspect that the problem of illegal aliens has as much to do with greedy employers who don’t want to pay a living wage as it does American’s who won’t take the jobs. When you hear that American’s won’t take the jobs, what is always left out of that phrase is that American’s won’t take the jobs for that kind of money.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Sexual abuse of children

According to Meg Kinnard of the Associated Press, there is a bill making its way through the South Carolina legislature which would make capital punishment an option for those convicted a second time for sexually assaulting children under the age of 11. In 1995 Louisiana approved a bill allowing prosecutors to seek the death for those who rape children under 12 years old. Oklahoma is considering similar legislation. A House Subcommittee in Tennessee has also voted to make the rape of a child a potential capital offense.

We can only hope this is the beginning of a nationwide trend.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Censorship at Midway High School

On April 26 the administration of Midway High School in North Carolina allowed students to hand out flyers and participate in the “Day of Silence,” an event promoted by the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network. On the following day, when one ninth-grade student tried to hand out flyers expressing another view, he was actually suspended from school! (ADF)

What was the message so hateful and so bigoted that this ninth grader simply must be silenced and punished? As it turns out, he was participating in a “Day of Truth” in which participants handed out flyers with the following message:

“I am speaking the Truth to break the silence. Silence isn’t freedom. It’s a constraint. Truth tolerates open discussion, because the Truth emerges when healthy discourse is allowed. By proclaiming the Truth in love, hurts will be halted, hearts will be healed, and lives will be saved.”

Monday, May 08, 2006

Christians and Sharia law

“It's one of today's most compelling news stories, yet it's all but ignored by most of the international media. I'm talking about the growing persecution of Christian minorities in the Islamic world. It briefly made headlines last month when machete-armed Egyptian fanatics attacked worshipers in three Coptic churches in Alexandria and murdered one aged man at prayer. Then of course, there was March - when an Afghan man escaped a death sentence for the "crime" of converting to Christianity. But how many people heard about the recent arrest and jailing in Saudi Arabia of a group of Filipino guest workers for holding Christian prayer services in the privacy of their home? Or who knows about the three Sunday School teachers charged in Indonesia last year with the crime of "Christianization" and summarily sentenced to three years in prison? The story is similar wherever Sharia - orthodox Islamic law - reigns supreme. From Pakistan to Darfur, Christians have become regular targets for Islamic gangs who shoot at worshipers, then torch their houses of worship.”

To read the rest of the quote above, go to the May 5 “Stand for Israel” blog.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Separation of Church and State

The phrase “separation of church and state” is probably one of the most well known phrases in America, but do you know where it came from? If you said, Thomas Jefferson…beeeeep, wrong answer, but thank you for playing. The phrase actually came from a sermon delivered by Baptist minister Roger Williams (founder of the Rhode Island colony). Roger Williams used a sermon illustration of the church as a garden with a wall of separation around it to protect it from being overrun by the wilderness.

This illustration apparently became widely known in early American history so when Jefferson wrote his letter to the Danbury Baptists using the wall of separation metaphor to assure them that government was not going to trample on the rights of religion, he used a metaphor with which they were very familiar. The metaphor, both for Jefferson and for Williams, was a wall of separation to protect the church from intrusion by government. It was never intended to imply that people of faith should not bring their religious views to the public square (or public school).

The idea that “separation of church and state” prohibits people of faith from brining their faith to bear on the political and social issues of our day is as absolutely absurd as it is impossible. But, as American philosopher William James is reported to have said (undoubtedly in a different context): “There is nothing so absurd but if you repeat it often enough people will believe it.” (Kupelian, David. The Marketing of Evil. Nashville : WND Books, 2005. 55-56).

Thursday, May 04, 2006

America, you lost!

Right after being sentenced to life in prison yesterday, Zacharias Moussaoui shouted “America, you lost, I won!” While many of us think he should have received the death penalty, let's see if he still thinks he won after 30 or 40 years in solitary confinement in a tiny prison cell. For some of us, that would be a cruel and unusual punishment far worse than death.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Religious extremism

One part of the movie, United 93, that stood out was the extraordinary dedication to Allah on the part of the terrorists who hijacked the plane. At several points in the movie--even as they are driving the plane into the ground--they are seen praying prayers of dedication and commitment to Allah. It would be easy to come away from the movie thinking that the root problem in our world is religious extremism. Indeed, this is exactly what many people believe. This view is remarkably shallow.

There is nothing necessarily wrong with extreme dedication—it all depends on the object of your dedication. For example, there were those who, in their extreme dedication to Adolf Hitler, imprisoned, tortured and slaughtered millions of Jews! On the other hand, there were Americans who, in there extreme dedication to others, were willing to die by the thousands to oppose Nazi slavery.

The terrorists on United 93—and millions of other extremists who operate under the banner of Islam—are dedicated to a view of god as one who seeks either to subjugate or to destroy the “infidels.” These extremists bomb, kidnap, rape, torture, murder and sometimes even behead innocent people.

By contrast—and contrary to popular opinion—Christian extremists are NOT the tiny percentage of idiots who have bombed abortion clinics—that is certainly an extreme response, but it is not a “Christian” response. True Christian “extremists” are those who have devoted their lives to serve others out of their extreme dedication to a God who came to seek and save the lost.

These Christian “extremists” have often given up virtually everything, risking their lives to start and run clinics, orphanages, homeless shelters and schools all over the world. They’ve rescued people from sexual slavery, forced prostitution, and domestic abuse. They’ve provided food, shelter, comfort, education and assistance, not just to Christians, but to people from nearly every tribe, race, nationality, and religion on the face of the earth. In fact, they have often been murdered by the very groups of people they came to serve.

But still they continue to go, while other Christian extremists stay behind collectively giving millions to support these efforts and to work tirelessly in their communities through church and para-church ministries as well as community charities. This is the true face of Christian extremism. Extreme dedication is not necessarily bad--it all depends on to whom or to what cause one is dedicated.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

United 93

I went to see the opening of United 93 on Friday. Unless you personally knew someone connected with that flight or are under 18 (its rated R), I highly recommend it.

For those with very short memories, United 93 was one of the planes that was hijacked on September 11. The movie takes you behind the scenes in civilian and military air traffic control centers and puts you on United 93 from beginning to end.

I thought the movie was realistic and very well done. There was, of course, some violence and bloodshed, but it was not unnecessarily graphic—not nearly as graphic as you would see on TV’s CSI. While some people found it deeply disturbing, I didn’t find it any more disturbing than the nightly news reports coming out of Iraq or Iran.

While Americans may disagree about how President Bush has conducted this war on terror, the movie is an important reminder of what the war is all about and I hope it turns out to be a blockbuster!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Take action against the boycott

Today is the nationwide work boycott by Hispanics. Some people think this is unpatriotic. Someone on TV yesterday even called it “economic blackmail.” If you agree, don’t sit idly by, do something!

Today, if you are served in a hotel or restaurant by someone who is Hispanic, take action—give them an extra large tip for coming to work and helping you. If you are helped by a Hispanic person in a store or office, let them know that you are grateful for their help. If you have Hispanic employees who show up for work today, show your appreciation—consider buying them lunch or something. If you know of a Mexican-owned company, give them your business.

If you are opposed to the boycott, express your appreciation to those who have chosen not to participate.