Thursday, July 31, 2014

Joseph of Arimathea

In some Anglican and Orthodox calendars, today is the Feast of Joseph of Arimathea.  There is some disagreement about the proper day for his feast.  The Romans have it on March 17th.

Joseph has some fun legends about him.  I particularly enjoy the story of his founding the church of the Isle of Glastonbury.

But the reason he comes to mind this year is the relevance of his good example.  In the midst of hostility to Christ and his followers, he went out of his way and risked his reputation and more to honor Him in His death by having him buried in his tomb.  To the urging of the Jewish leaders (and Joseph of Arimathea was a devout Jew) and of the mob and by the order of Pilate, Jesus was very publically executed as a criminal.  Yet Joseph went to the same Pilate to ask for the body of Jesus so that he may give him an honorable burial.  And that when many of Christ’s followers were already in hiding.

Moreover, Joseph of Arimathea was a “rich man” as Isaiah 53:9 prophesied.  Taking up for executed criminals usually is not good for business.

Today, there is more and more hostility – and persecution – of Christ and his followers.  Western culture is certainly becoming more hostile to practicing Christians.  (Although, as I’ve mentioned before, this is nothing compared to the outright genocide against Christians committed by several groups of extreme Muslims.)  Yet we are all the more called to honor Christ in the midst of an opposing and derisive culture.  Christ’s honor comes before our own honor, comes before the culture’s approval.

May God help us to follow the good example of Joseph of Arimathea by putting Christ and his honor first no matter the risk to our reputations and livelihoods.

Merciful God, whose servant Joseph of Arimathea with reverence and godly fear prepared the body of our Lord and Savior for burial, and laid it in his own tomb: Grant to us, your faithful people, grace and courage to love and serve Jesus with sincere devotion all the days of our life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

One Sort of Illegal Immigrant That Should Be Deported NOW

Here in Texas, we are very familiar with illegal immigrants who otherwise obey the law, lead a quiet life, and work hard to send money home to their families.  One can hardly get too angry about this sort.  If only more U. S. citizens so conducted themselves!

But there are many illegals who are not so noble.  And several of them have been gathering at the White House to protest on behalf of further undermining our laws and borders.  They are even demanding meetings IN the White House!

This sort does anger me.  They should not be here in the first place; they are not U. S. citizens or even legal immigrants; and they have the gall to protest and lobby Washington?  When I was legally in the U. K., I didn’t dream of engaging in protest or lobbying there although I have strong opinions about UK politics.  I’m not a UK citizen, and it is not my place to so take advantage of their hospitality.

Conversely, we have had marches for illegal immigrants here in Texas in which illegals march under a Mexican flag!  In my darker moments, I wish someone would treat them like the invaders they are.

But certainly advocating for further undermining of our borders should be a one-way ticket to deportation back home.  That illegals are protesting in the streets without fear of deportation is outrageous.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Letter of ISIS Genocide

Along with many others, I have changed my twitter account icon to this symbol, the Arabic letter nun.  I’ll let Rorate Caeli (who may have begun this suddenly viral practice) explain its significance:

Nun, the 14th letter of the Arabic alphabet (the equivalent of letter N in our Roman alphabet), is the first letter of the word Nasara (Nazarenes), the way Muslims have called Christians since the beginning of their invasion of the Christian world in the 7th century -- Christians under Muslim rule never called themselves thus, since the intent of Muslims was to portray Christians as a contemptible and disobedient sect.

In their genocidal physical elimination of Christians from the Mesopotamian city of Mosul, Muslim terrorists marked each Christian-owned institution and building with this letter, for the extermination of holdouts and expropriation of their belongings.

And Rorate Caeli’s post contains photographs of said markings.

My thoughts and prayers have particularly been with Christians driven from their homes by ISIS Islamonazis.  And as St. Paul wrote, if one of us suffers, we all suffer.  Hence my modest decision to join those taking upon ourselves that letter of anti-Christian genocide.

The collect for this week, of the Fifth Sunday after Trinity, has struck me as particularly timely during this awful period of anti-Christian persecution in the Middle East.

GRANT, O Lord, we beseech thee, that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered by thy governance, that thy Church may joyfully serve thee in all godly quietness; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Durham-in-Wonderland Closes

The excellent Durham-in-Wonderland blog came to a close Friday.  Some readers may remember that is the blog that closely followed the Duke Lacrosse case.  I read and linked to it frequently.  I commend to you Dr. Johnson’s closing and reflective post.

This case is one reason my enthusiasm as a Duke alum has greatly diminished through the years.  The university conducted itself horribly in spite of numerous rebukes from alumni.  And the administration has learned little from the episode judging from their once again showing little concern for the rights of the accused.

With Dr. Johnson, I particularly find egregious the conduct of the Group of 88 and their lack of consequences for the same.

And yet for dozens of Duke faculty, this evidence appeared irrelevant. Eighty-eight of them rushed to judgment, signing a statement (whose production violated Duke regulations in multiple ways) affirming that something had “happened” to false accuser Crystal Mangum, and thanking protesters (“for not waiting”) who had, among other things, urged the castration of the lacrosse captains and blanketed the campus with “wanted” posters. As the case to which they attached their public reputations imploded, Group members doubled down, with most issuing a second statement promising they would never apologize for their actions. (Only three Group members ever said they were sorry for signing the statement, and two of that number subsequently retracted those apologies.) For months, the Duke administration was either in agreement with the faculty extremists or cowed by them—or some combination of both.

The lacrosse case provided a rare opportunity to glimpse inside the mindset of an elite university—and the look was a troubling one. There is no evidence of any accountability at Duke: the university has the same leadership and the same hiring patterns it had in 2006. Several members of the Group of 88 have gone on to more prestigious positions, their efforts to exploit their students’ distress causing them no problem in the contemporary academy.

In fact, a leader of the Group of 88, Cathy Davidson, has since been appointed to the National Council of the Humanities by Obama.

By the way, I was among those alumni who urged consequences for the Group of 88.

But Dr. Johnson is one person who shone during this sorry episode.  He did yeoman work in reporting on this case (for which he eventually was greatly hassled by Duke).  I salute him and his blog as he brings it to a close.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Barack Obama, Jerk

Those who ever voted for Barack Obama owe our overseas friends an apology.  For yesterday, a day of great gravity and tragedy, he once again not only acted unpresidential, but also with a complete lack of class and sensitivity.

Here’s the beginning of his comments in Delaware, supplied by the White House:

Hello, everybody! (Applause.) Everybody, please have a seat. Please have a seat. It is wonderful to be back in Delaware.

Hello Delaware!

Before I begin, obviously the world is watching reports of a downed passenger jet near the Russia-Ukraine border. And it looks like it may be a terrible tragedy. Right now, we're working to determine whether there were American citizens onboard. That is our first priority.

Huh?  Looks like it may be a tragedy?  When he made these remarks, it was already well known the Malaysian Airlines plane has crashed from high altitude. And then his next sentence makes it sound like the reason that it may be a tragedy is that there may have been Americans aboard.

Now even I will give him enough credit that he surely did not mean it would be a tragedy if Americans were aboard; if it’s just Europeans and Malays then no big deal.  But could he have worded his statement with less sensitivity?  I don’t think Obama is a Kenyan, but he sure as heck is an Ugly American.

 And I've directed my national security team to stay in close contact with the Ukrainian government. The United States will offer any assistance we can to help determine what happened and why. And as a country, our thoughts and prayers are with all the families of the passengers, wherever they call home.

Well, now that we’ve got that annoying event out of the way, let’s laugh it up!

I want to thank Jeremie for that introduction. Give Jeremie a big round of applause. (Applause.) It is great to be in the state that gave us Joe Biden. (Applause.) We've got actually some better-looking Bidens with us here today. (Laughter.) We've got Beau and his wife, Hallie, are here. Give them a big round of applause. We love them. (Applause.) We've got Governor Jack Markell. (Applause.) Senator Chris Coons, Congressman John Carney, County Executive Tom Gordon, and the Mayor of Wilmington, Dennis Williams. (Applause.) We've also got two terrific members of my Cabinet -- Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is here -- (applause) -- and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is here. (Applause.)

Jack Lew's signature is actually on your money. (Laughter.) Although it's kind of illegible. We teased him when he first became Treasury Secretary that he was going to have to fix his signature a little bit because it looked just like a caterpillar running along the bottom. (Laughter.)

If only we could fix our President.

And as if that is not bad enough, he went on as if it’s just another day.  He went out for a photo op burger.  Another crisis; another photo op.  And he went to New York for fundraisers.  Of course.

Couldn’t he at least look like he cares?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Another Day, Another Hard Drive Missing UPDATED

Yes, yet another hard drive relating to the operations of Lois Lerner has gone missing.  This time it is from a very partisan hack who worked under Lerner at the Federal Election Commission.

The Federal Election Commission recycled the computer hard drive of April Sands — a former co-worker of Lois Lerner’s — hindering an investigation into Sands’ partisan political activities, according to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Sands resigned from the Federal Election Commission in April after she admitted to violating the Hatch Act, which bars executive branch employees from engaging in partisan political activities on federal time and at federal facilities.

The twist is that Sands also worked under Lois Lerner when the ex-IRS agent — who is currently embroiled in a scandal over the targeting of conservative political groups — worked at the FEC’s enforcement division.

Both Sands and Lerner were notorious for using their positions at the FEC to target conservatives.  And when I say Sands was very partisan, I am not overstating matters:

One of Sands’ tweets, from June 4, 2012 read “I just don’t understand how anyone but straight white men can vote Republican. What kind of delusional rhetorical does one use?”

Sands is a black female.

“Dear every single Republican ever, When will U learn that Barack Hussein Obama is simply smarter than U? Stand down, Signed #Obama2012 #p2,” Sands wrote on May 1, 2012.

In a message fro Aug. 25, 2012, Sands called Republicans her “enemy.”

In others, Sands issued fundraising pleas on behalf of Obama. “Our #POTUS’s birthday is August 4. He’ll be 51. I’m donating $51 to give him the best birthday present ever: a second term,” she wrote on July 18, 2012.

“The bias in these messages is striking, especially for an attorney charged with the responsibility to enforce federal election laws fairly and dispassionately,” read the Oversight letter to Goodman, an Obama appointee.

But I trust she did not conspire with Lois Lerner at the FEC to target conservatives.  And I’m sure her hard drive gone missing, and that after known illegal conduct on her part, is just an convenient unfortunate coincidence.

Seriously, when are we going to get real?  With all these hard drives “lost” surrounding Lois Lerner, there is obviously a cover-up going on.  There should be a strong aggressive prosecutor going after Lois Lerner, the IRS, the FEC, and the Obama Administration NOW.


MORE: Ed Morrissey has more color on this:

The Hatch Act requires strict neutrality of all federal employees while on duty, and one would expect that to be particularly observed in the FEC. Instead, Sands tweeted partisan messages from her office in 2012; sent out fundraising pleas for Obama’s re-election campaign, called Republicans her “enemy,” and said they should shut up and “stand down.”

When the Inspector General came knocking, however, the evidence had vanished. The FEC “recycled” her hard drive, which meant that criminal charges could not be pursued. How exactly could this have happened? Sands was under suspicion of a crime under a statute which would be updated later that year, in a bill signed by Barack Obama himself. Shouldn’t the FEC have taken steps to secure evidence rather than destroy it?. . .

Issa now wants Goodman to produce all of the data surrounding the destruction of evidence at the FEC, and wants it by July 28th. How many more hard drives will get “recycled” at the FEC between then and now? The sky’s the limit in the Obama administration.

No kidding.  Which makes the appointment of a prosecutor all the more urgent.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Let’s . . . Play the Race Card!

It’s time for that favorite game of Liberals and Leftists, Let’s . . . Play the Race Card! (canned applause)

Our first contestant is that oh-so-Lefty “Christian”, (canned laughter) Jim Wallis! (identical canned applause)

Wallis earned the loudest applause of the night with his statement that the Tea Party only existed because Obama was black. “Barack Obama does not make this a post-racial society. This is the first friend I had who has become president. He has been stunned by the reaction to him. There would not be a tea party in America, I will this say this, if there wasn’t a black man in the White House.”

Wallis quickly clarified that you could disagree with Obama and not be a racist, noting that he had disagreements with him over immigration, poverty, and drones. Apparently, criticizing Obama from the left is not racist. “But [the Tea Party’s] disagreement with him is not about policy. It’s about who he is as a black man because he represents the future of America, and that makes a lot of white folks really angry and really scared.”

That’s right, Jim!  The Tea Party’s problem with Obama has nothing to do with Obamacare, massive deficits, tyrannical executive and federal overreach, rewarding illegal immigration, attacks on religious freedom, on privacy, or any other policy direction.  Not to mention those made up scandals about veterans dying on waiting lists and the IRS targeting the Tea Party.  It’s all about race!

Way to play the race card!  Thanks for playing, Jim! (canned applause)

Our next contestant is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid! (canned applause) Harry, while talking about your efforts to undo the Hobby Lobby ruling, you said this:

“People are going to have to walk down here and vote, and if they vote with the five men on the Supreme Court, I think it’s — they’re going to have — be treated unfavorably come November with the elections,” Reid told reporters on Tuesday, according to ABC.

The Senate will act soon to “ensure that women’s lives are not determined by virtue of five white men,” Reid added.

Uh, oh! (canned laughter) Someone forgot to tell Harry that Clarence Thomas is Not White.

Sorry, Harry.  You get a Race Card FAIL. (obnoxious buzzer, uproarious canned laughter)

But thanks for playing anyway.  And for your consolation prize, we are giving you a framed photograph of Justice Clarence Thomas, just in case you need to be reminded Clarence Thomas is Not White.  (canned laughter)

And we will see you next time on Let’s Play the Race Card! (canned laughter, lame music)

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Overcoming Idolatry (and bad chess)

I do not think I’ve mentioned this here, but I am something of an avid chess player.  I’m rated in the 1700s in over-the-board play (as opposed to online play), which is above average for tournament players but nowhere near chess master territory.  But the time and effort I have devoted to the game is surely a bit more above average.

And that leads to a problem I had earlier this year.  My chess was not progressing and seemed to have not been progressing for some time.  Instead, it was apparently regressing.  And I was so unhappy – and angry – about it, it was dragging me down in general.  The effects of my bad chess were spreading to elsewhere in my life.

I saw something had to change.  Increasing my efforts at chess was not an option as I only have so much time and energy.  Not to mention I think that would have given chess too much priority in my life – a subject to which I will shortly return.  Continuing my level of effort and prioritizing of chess was not working.  And continuing such an exercise in frustration was not acceptable.

At the same time, just giving up and discontinuing serious chess altogether would have been wasting – and tacitly admitting it was a waste – all those years of effort at the game.  The thought of all that wasted effort was discouraging to say the least.  I hoped there was another way.

Then there was the issue of idolatry, of which I previously hinted.  In the back of my mind for some time, I wondered if chess was too important to me.  I knew for one thing that I was spending too much time playing 5 minute chess online (which many chess players can tell you can be both very addicting and very frustrating, frustration compounded by those who think short time controls online exempt them from decent sportsmanship).  I was already making some effort to cut back on that.  But otherwise, I did not think I was making chess too important to me – until my bad chess was becoming more persistent.

The unhappiness my bad chess was creating and the fruitlessness of the time invested in it showed me I probably had made chess too important, that it had become an idol for me.  Idols are annoying; they never give back the time and effort spent on them.  I was certainly experiencing that.  Now I certainly never came close to making chess more important to me than God.  But I do not think I am being too hard on myself when I say that making something too important can be idolatry – making a little god if you will – and that I had likely done that with chess.

After much thought and prayer, what I decided is that I would make chess a hobby and only that.  If I felt like playing or studying, I would do so without expending too much time and effort.  I would do so only when I wanted to (and when more important matters were not pressing, of course).  Chess had to be a fun thing to me, not a very important thing to me.  And if the results were unimpressive, well, the results of making chess very important to me were not only unimpressive but frustrating and discouraging.

I thought about but at least put off a complete retirement from serious chess.  I chose a semi-retirement if you will.

Now, I did see that it was possible that being more relaxed and casual about chess might actually improve my game.  A poor attitude, particularly too much fear of losing, can stifle chess abilities.  (“Trying too hard” can as well but explaining that would take a whole ‘nother post.)  I also saw that my chess results could continue to decline.  But my results were not good anyway, plus I am at an age when one’s chess tends to begin declining.  Regardless of my results, I wanted to have a positive attitude about the game and not let all those years of past effort go to waste.

Well, to fast forward to this past Fourth of July weekend, a funny thing happened.  For the first time in months, I felt good enough about my game to enter a tournament.  And my play was pleasing, not perfect, but good overall with no egregious blunders (Well, I have found a serious oversight with my PC.  But anyway…) and some very pleasing moves I probably would have missed in the past.  And I had the energy to complete my games well.

Now energy had been a serious downfall in past tournaments.  I did not sleep well at tournaments and my play declined as tourneys progressed because my energy declined.  On two past occasions I missed fairly simple moves in the last round that would have won sections for me in part because I was too tired to see and think.

But this time, I slept better at a tourney than I had in years.  And I never konked at the board in part because I was more able to relax and not waste energy on nerves.   Surely, that chess was not quite so darn important to me helped with that.  Perhaps it also helped give me the clarity of mind to see things at the board fairly well, for me at least.

In addition, God was providential in a number of ways to the point where I was even a bit lucky.  (Yes, there is good and bad luck at chess, and it helped cost me at least one tourney.  You do not want to get me started on that unhappy episode.)

The result of all that is that I got a monkey off my back and finally won my first Under 1800 section, and that at a large tourney.  (Well, I tied for first, but who’s quibbling.)  That and the good time I had made for a very happy weekend.

Now I did not expect the results of fleeing idolatry to be so immediate and gratifying.  And certainly one should not expect the results of efforts at obedience to be so immediate.  But I do think my happy weekend illustrates that fleeing idolatry and putting things in their place just works better than the alternative.  (Read Isaiah 44:9-20 for a pointed commentary on that.)

I was a bit slow to apply this to my chess.  But I thank God that he allowed me to suffer a little so I would finally make chess less of a brazen idol.  And I am thankful for His providence and grace so quickly bringing about happy results of the same.

Democrats, LGBT Groups, and Feminazis Hate Your Freedom of Religion

If there were any doubts about the intent of the various genres of Leftists to crush religious freedom under their agenda, their reaction to the Hobby Lobby decision should remove those doubts.

Democrats, including Bill Clinton, Harry Reid, and even Patty Murray and Barbara Boxer supported the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.  No more.  Senate Democrats are pushing a bill to weaken RFRA and undo the Hobby Lobby ruling.  Because free birth control pills and abortifacients for everyone is sooo much more important than your freedom of religion.

And LGBTCQXYZOHHELLIVELOSTTRACKALREADY groups are in such a panic that someone might actually get to exercise their freedom of religion concerning acceptance of the perversion of sex and marriage that they have reversed themselves and are now urging the rejection of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act because it actually has language purporting to protect religious freedom.  Horrors!

Meanwhile, the National Organization of Womyn has put the Little Sisters of the Poor on their “Dirty 100” list because they object to providing contraception.  Well, duh, they are a devout Catholic organization.  And many of NOW’s “Dirty 100” are Christian organizations, including Priests for Life and a number of Roman Catholic dioceses and Christian colleges.  One might as well castigate mosques or synagogues as “dirty” for not hosting pig-pickins.

(NOW labels the aforesaid groups as the "Dirty 100" here.)

And if one finds my labeling NOW “Feminazis” offensive, is not their labeling of religious groups that object to participating in their agenda as “dirty” echo the vile use of the epithet “Dirty Jew” by Nazis and other anti-semites?

But what do you expect from people so ethically bankrupt that they put free employer-provided birth control over freedom of religion?