Monday, March 31, 2008

Stating the obvious, part 2

In another editorial are analyzed the varying responses of the West to religion and how it relates to Islam. Excerpts and my comments:
Americans may be accustomed to images of angry bearded men setting their flag alight. The Dutch aren't. In response, the government raised the national terrorist threat level to "substantial" while Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende distanced himself from the movie. Until the last moment, he urged Mr. Wilders not to show the film.
They'll become accustomed soon enough, if things keep going as they are.

The message of "Fitna" is that the Quran is the living inspiration for jihadists. Without the Quran's violent passages, the film suggests, Islamic terrorism would not exist. (Muslims Against Sharia has latched on to this idea.) Mr. Wilders shows verses from the Quran alongside hate speeches by imams and graphic images of Islamic terrorism...

Ah, but then the response would be that he's taking things out of context! Yet, as can be easily discerned, the Quran is not organized by topic. One may find ayah (verses) about stories about Moses adjacent to ayah concerning the fires of hell.

The Western world long ago learned to criticize, even mock, religion.

That, I believe, is a taproot of the problem - Muslims taking their religion extremely seriously, while even most Christians in this country today don't know what they believe.

When Ms. Hirsi Ali went to live in the U.S. in 2006, Geert Wilders picked up the baton....Some of his arguments are pure polemic. For instance, he says the Quran is a "fascist" book. Since it is illegal in the Netherlands to publish Hitler's "Mein Kampf," he argues, so it should be illegal to publish the Quran.

Hmmm...an intriguing argument, to say the least.

Yet his outrageous remarks have stirred a constructive discussion about the Quran and Islam in the Netherlands that is more vigorous than in any Western or, for that matter, Muslim country. And uncomfortable as they may be for Dutch Muslims, they help them view their religion in a more critical light.

Now that's heartening! Lastly comes the clarion call of indictment:

A strand in Western society -- a combination of European nihilism, self-loathing and timidity -- favors appeasement. It is not the strength of our enemies but our weakness that might be our ruin....Any weakness in the resolve to defend our democratic legal order should be seen for what it is: Betrayal and cowardice.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Easter 2

Today's readings were Acts 5:29-42, 1 Peter 1:3-9, and John 20:19-31, the last of which was the text, particularly verses 19-23.
Themes: fear vs. peace; sin vs. grace; law vs. Gospel.

Evening of 1st Easter. Some disciples had already seen Jesus risen, but were still afraid. It illustrates our spiritual fear - without Christ saving us, His presence terrifies us. As Adam and Eve hid themselves after sinning, so also we should be fearful of God, but people have been working to eliminate this proper fear...each age by its own technology, or by sinning so much that we forget God (as with Sodom and Gomorrah), or by secular "peace" and government.

BUT Jesus appeared, saying, "PEACE be with you!" The disciples were glad only after they verified His physical body. Our peace is where God has vented His righteous anger and forgiven us - in Christ's person and body.

We suffer on account of Christ's name - we endure with joy because God's peace is with us through Jesus Christ's body and blood! We receive the Holy Spirit; use our measure of Him to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, forgiving (or withholding forgiveness from) offenders through Christ and on His authority.
Instead of having another session of Jeremiah today, we discussed the Issues, Etc. matter. Here are some sites that have sprung up (besides the petition, of course); check them out:

Laymen, Etc. - highlights longer testimonies from the petition website; a good link index.

Bring Back Issues - albeit perhaps in a different form, always geared to upholding Scriptural truth and inerrancy.

Pastor Cwirla (Underground) - to "combat synodical terrorism."

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Legality: hot topics, part 2b

Today were published several letters concerning the CA homeschooling editorial about which I wrote here. For your reading pleasure (bold parenthetical material mine):
Regarding your March 22 editorial "Certifying Parents" criticizing the California court that ruled that parents cannot "home school" their children without government certification: I am conservative enough to reflexively balk at most attempts by government to force fiat compliance. Yet I have no such dread of requiring some standard of excellence for anyone seeking to teach, regardless of their venue. (Hmph. That sounds like the way socialism all starts...slowly and innocuously.)

...

While I would never claim that our public schools provide the best hope of a more moral and just society, I do understand the corrosive effect bad teachers can have on this dimension of human development. So let me go further. I not only advocate for the certification of home-schooling adults, I would require that all public teacher evaluations have ground in the deceptively ephemeral educational outcomes of their students' citizenship, their societal commitments and the paths they take to live a meaningful life....

A teacher can provide the door through which students, our not-so-far-away citizens, find the love of learning. (So can a parent, and even more so.) Their passion makes real the life of the mind and the responsibility that comes with inquiry and questioning....It should not matter if one is a talented newcomer, a gloried veteran or a caring parent who has grown rightfully sour on our most misunderstood institution.

~Neil J. L. in Salem, OR. (The author is a teacher with 12 years' experience in a public school, now on the faculty at Willamette University.)

What beautiful prose nonetheless! Now for a somewhat less flowery, but even more powerful, letter. Writes Vicki E. Murray, Ph.D. in Education Studies and Senior Policy Fellow at Pacific Research Institute in Sacramento, CA:

"Certifying Parents" aptly describes the failure of California's public-schooling monopoly, and why so many parents want out. Thanks to a handful of State Assembly members, a record-setting five parental choice bills are being introduced this legislative session. (Now THAT is surprising and very heartening news for me! Parental choice!)...

The proposed measures would free California children from unsafe schools...and failing schools.... They would also provide parents of private and home-schooled children with tax credits...and let parents of special-needs children choose another school if they wish...without having to hire an attorney or jump through endless bureaucratic hoops. (Could this be true? Let's wait and see.)...

Finally, Marcel L. in Ridgecrest, CA, takes apart the unfortunate decision:

...The first test [of logic] asks: Are there enough "unqualified" home schoolers to warrant a program of government regulation? As your editorial noted, the standardized test performance of home-schooled children suggests the answer is an unqualified "no." It's easy to understand why. Home schooling requires parents to forgo a second income and to incur significant expense for books and materials, effectively paying a very expensive tuition to educate their children. Few parents would incur these costs without serious preparation.

The second question asks: Does the state have a more compelling interest than parents in the education of children? Again, the answer is clearly "no." Although a well-educated citizenry is in our society's best interests, professional educators face little accountability and few compelling deadlines when their efforts fail to produce satisfactory results. Schools will always have next year's students to "fix" what ails them. (Guinea pigs? I thought only Uncle Andrew from The Magician's Nephew used them that uncaringly!) Indeed, this has been their approach for the past three decades. Parents do not share this luxury; in each child there is only a very small, finite period of time in which to achieve results. (Measure twice, cut once, so to speak.)

Hundreds of thousands of parents in California have taken their children's education into their own hands. The onerous and illogical regulation promoted by California's courts won't force home schoolers back into the state's failed school system, just to a different state.

Keep up the good fight!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Into the spotlight!

Houses of Worship (WSJ) has for its topic this week ...three guesses. No, not "Fitna." Yes, the Issues, Etc. controversy and its context (which Cheryl references). For your reading pleasure and fury, below is text with comments (bold parenthetical) and emphasis (bold).
Usually radio hosts have to offend sacred moral sensibilities to be thrown off the air. Opie and Anthony were fired after they encouraged a couple to have sex in St. Patrick's Cathedral. Don Imus lost his job after using racist and sexist epithets against the Rutgers University women's basketball team.

But when the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod canceled (too weak a word for it) its popular, nationally syndicated radio program "Issues, Etc.," listeners were baffled. Billed as "talk radio for the thinking Christian," the show was known for its lively discussions analyzing cultural influences on the American church. It seemed like precisely the thing that the Missouri Synod, a 2.4-million-member denomination whose system of belief is firmly grounded in Scripture and an intellectually rigorous theology, would enthusiastically support.

Broadcast from the nation's oldest continuously run religious radio station, KFUO-AM in St. Louis, and syndicated throughout the country, "Issues, Etc." had an even larger audience world-wide, thanks to its podcast's devoted following. (Just look at the signatures and you'll see the wide range of listeners.) With 14 hours of fresh programming each week, the show was on the leading edge of what's happening in culture, politics and broader church life. The Rev. Todd Wilken interviewed the brightest lights from across the theological spectrum on news of the day. Guests included Oxford University's Dr. Alister McGrath, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary's Albert Mohler (who has his own show, by the way) and more postmodern types, like Tony Jones, national coordinator for a church network called Emergent Village.

On its last show, on March 17, listeners learned about the life and faith of St. Patrick; scientific and philosophical arguments in defense of the human embryo; the excommunication of two Roman Catholic women who claimed ordination; and the controversy surrounding the sermons of Barack Obama's pastor, Jeremiah Wright. (My guess is that the last two items may have influenced the cancellation...but that's just me.)

Despite the show's popularity, low cost and loyal donor base, Mr. Wilken and Jeff Schwarz, the producer of "Issues, Etc.," were dismissed without explanation on Tuesday of Holy Week. Within hours, the program's Web site -- which provided access to past episodes and issues of its magazine -- had disappeared. Indeed, all evidence that the show ever existed was removed. (As Cheryl has noted, this rings curiously close to Orwell.)

So what happened? Initially, the bureaucrats in St. Louis kept a strict silence, claiming that the show had been canceled for "business and programmatic" reasons. Yesterday the synod cited low local ratings in the St. Louis area and the low number of listeners to the live audio stream on the Web site. But the last time the synod tracked the size of the audience was three years ago, and it did not take into account the show's syndicated or podcast following. The synod also claimed that the show lost $250,000 a year, an assertion that is at odds with those of others familiar with the operating budget of the station. (In fact, I have heard from one reputable source that, given all the podcast downloads, the cost of providing one priceless hour of Lutheran theological exposition per listener comes out to about 13 cents.)

The Rev. Michael Kumm, who served on three management committees for the station, said that the explanation doesn't add up. " 'Issues, Etc.' is the most listened to, most popular and generates more income than any other program at the station and perhaps even the others combined. This decision is purely political," he said.

He may well be right. The program was in all likelihood a pawn in a larger battle for the soul of the Missouri Synod. The church is divided between, on the one hand, traditional Lutherans known for their emphasis on sacraments, liturgical worship and the church's historic confessions and, on the other, those who have embraced pop-culture Christianity (shudder) and a market-driven approach to church growth. The divide is well known to all confessional Christian denominations struggling to retain their traditional identity.

The Rev. Gerald Kieschnick, the synod's current president, has pushed church marketing over the Lutherans' historic confession of faith by repeatedly telling the laity, "This is not your grandfather's church." (And the traditional Lutherans, including me, have bemoaned these words just as repeatedly.)

Since Mr. Kieschnick narrowly won election in 2001, the church has embarked on a program, called Ablaze!, that has the admirable goal of "reaching 100 million unreached and uncommitted people with the Gospel by 2017," the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Historically the church kept statistics on baptisms. Now, however, it keeps a tally of what it calls "critical events." On March 17 a man reported discussing Jesus with his waitress -- and the Ablaze! count went up by one.

One congregation near St. Louis took a $25,000 Ablaze! grant and used it to put up billboards with kitschy statements purporting to come from the devil (e.g., "JeffersonHills Church Sucks," signed "Satan"). A Michigan mission congregation replaced the historical message of Lent with a speaker series on sex. Following marketing principles, neither congregation uses the word "Lutheran" in its name or advertising campaign.

While "Issues, Etc." never criticized Mr. Kieschnick or his colleagues, its attacks against shallow church marketing included mention of some approaches embraced by the current leadership. It opposed, for instance, the emergent church -- an attempt to accommodate postmodern culture by blending philosophies and practices from throughout the church's history -- and the Purpose Driven Church movement, which reorients the church's message toward self-help and self-improvement. (What do the words "no compromising matters of faith" mean to YOU?)

This isn't the first time the Missouri Synod has been divided between confessional Lutherans and those enamored with the latest religious fads. In the 1970s, alert confessional laity thwarted a top-down imposition of chic liberal theology in the church's seminaries (a.k.a. Seminex).

A similar grass-roots movement may now have begun among the radio show's fans. Within days of the cancellation of "Issues, Etc.," public outcry forced the synod to repost the archived broadcasts on KFUO's Web site. A petition calling for the show's return has been signed by thousands of people from 49 states, 27 denominations and 25 countries. Many of the signers explained how "Issues, Etc." introduced them to Lutheranism. Young listeners have started a Facebook group to share information about the fate of the show.

Jim Kruta of Collinsville, Ill., was the 4,056th petition signer. An adult convert, he says that he listened to "Issues, Etc." for engaging discussions grounded in confessional Lutheranism. Mr. Kruta explained that Missouri Synod members should have drawn the line sooner about how much deviation they would tolerate in the church. "Seriously, this has been like waking up in the hospital after surgery only to find that the wrong limb has been amputated and no one will admit who the surgeon was," he said.

As synod bureaucrats support congregations that hide their Lutheran identity while terminating the strong witness of "Issues, Etc.," members of the denomination are asking if they can have their grandfather's church back.

As of now (1:00pm CST), the petition (c'mon, sign it!) has 5217 signatures.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Fowarded email

I know this will raise some people's hackles, but I'm going to use my right to free speech and post this list I received from another blogging friend. If you take issue with these, feel free to add an opposing list in the comments. Laugh (or not). Update: Blogger's limit on labels (200 characters total) is frustrating. As a result, I can't file this post fully under all the categories it fits in. >:(
To be a Democrat.....

1. You have to be against capital punishment, but support abortion on demand.

2. You have to believe that businesses create oppression and governments create prosperity.

3. You have to believe that guns in the hands of law-abiding Americans are more of a threat than nuclear weapons in the hands of Chinese and Korean communists.

4. You have to believe that there was no art before Federal funding.

5. You have to believe that global temperatures are more affected by people driving SUVs, than by documented cyclical changes in the earth's climate.

6. You have to believe that gender roles are artificial but being homosexual is natural.

7. You have to believe that the AIDS virus is spread by a lack of federal funding. (Biology course, anyone? :D)

8. You have to believe that the same teacher who can't teach fourth graders how to read is qualified to teach those same kids about sex.

9. You have to believe that hunters don't care about nature, but loony activists who have never been out of the city, do.

10. You have to believe that self-esteem is more important than actually doing something to earn it.

11. You have to believe that Mel Gibson spent $25 million of his own money to make 'The Passion of the Christ' for financial gain.

12. You have to believe the NRA is bad because it supports certain parts of the Constitution, but the ACLU is good because it supports certain parts of the Constitution.

13. You have to believe that ATM fees are too high, but taxes are too low.

14. You have to believe that Margaret Sanger and Gloria Steinem are more important to American history than Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Edison, and A. G. Bell.

15. You have to believe that standardized tests are racist, but racial quotas are not.

16. You have to believe that Hillary Clinton is normal and a very nice person. (Now remember, I didn't write this list; no matter how much I may dislike H. C., I'm refraining from writing ad-hominems.)

17. You have to believe that the only reason socialism hasn't worked anywhere it has ever been tried is because the right people haven't been in charge.

18. You have to believe conservatives telling the truth belong in jail, but a Democratic Congressman caught with over $100,000 in bribe money chilling out in his freezer belongs in the Congress.

19. You have to believe that homosexual parades are constitutionally protected, but manger scenes at Christmas are illegal.

20. You have to believe that illegal funding of the Democratic Party by the Chinese Government is acceptable.

21. You have to believe that it's okay to give Federal workers Christmas Day off, but it's offensive to say 'Merry Christmas'.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Stating the obvious

...or perhaps not so obvious to some, as Peter Hoekstra demonstrates in an op-ed today concerning Islam vs. free speech, one of our treasured rights under attack. Even though I've heard and read about the material therein many times before, it got me very angry today. Read on; see why. Bold parenthetical material is mine, as well as bold emphasis, as usual.
The Netherlands is bracing for a new round of violence at home and against its embassies in the Middle East. The storm would be caused by "Fitna," a short film that is scheduled to be released this week. The film, which reportedly includes images of a Quran being burned, was produced by Geert Wilders, a member of the Dutch parliament and leader of the Freedom Party. Mr. Wilders has called for banning the Quran -- which he has compared to Hitler's "Mein Kampf" -- from the Netherlands.

...

Reasonable men in free societies regard Geert Wilders's anti-Muslim rhetoric, and films like "Fitna," as disrespectful of the religious sensitivities of members of the Islamic faith. But free societies also hold freedom of speech to be a fundamental human right. We don't silence, jail or kill people with whom we disagree just because their ideas are offensive or disturbing. We believe that when such ideas are openly debated, they sink of their own weight and attract few followers. (Unfortunately, liberal ideologies are threatening this right too.)

Our country allows fringe groups like the American Nazi Party to demonstrate, as long as they are peaceful. Americans are permitted to burn the national flag. In 1989, when so-called (thank you!) artist Andres Serrano displayed his work "[P***] Christ" -- a photo of a crucifix immersed in a bottle of urine -- Americans protested peacefully and moved to cut off the federal funding that supported Mr. Serrano. There were no bombings of museums. No one was killed over this work that was deeply offensive to Christians.

Criticism of Islam, however, has led to violence and murder world-wide. Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for Muslims to kill Salman Rushdie over his 1988 book, "The Satanic Verses." Although Mr. Rushdie has survived, two people associated with the book were stabbed, one fatally. The 2005 Danish editorial cartoons lampooning the prophet Muhammad led to numerous deaths. Dutch director Theodoor van Gogh was killed in 2004, several months after he made the film "Submission," which described violence against women in Islamic societies. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former Dutch member of parliament who wrote the script for "Submission," received death threats over the film and fled the country for the United States.

The violence Dutch officials are anticipating now is part of a broad and determined effort by the radical jihadist movement to reject the basic values of modern civilization and replace them with an extreme form of Shariah....

Radical jihadists are prepared to use violence against individuals to stop them from exercising their free speech rights. In some countries, converting a Muslim to another faith is a crime punishable by death. While Muslim clerics are free to preach and proselytize in the West, some Muslim nations severely restrict or forbid other faiths to do so. In addition, moderate Muslims around the world have been deemed apostates and enemies by radical jihadists.

...

There may be a direct relationship between the radical jihadists' opposition to democracy and their systematic abuse of women. Women have virtually no rights in this radical world: They must conceal themselves, cannot hold jobs, and have been subjected to honor killings. Would most women in Muslim countries vote for a candidate for public office who supported such oppressive rules?

Not all of these radicals are using violence to supplant democratic society with an extreme form of Shariah. Some in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark are attempting to create parallel Islamic societies with separate courts for Muslims....

While efforts to create parallel Islamic societies have been mostly peaceful, they may actually be a jihadist "waiting game," based on the assumption that the Islamic populations of many European states will become the majority over the next 25-50 years due to higher Muslim birth rates and immigration.

What is particularly disturbing about these assaults against modern society is how the West has reacted with appeasement, willful ignorance, and a lack of journalistic criticism....

Even if the new Wilders film proves newsworthy, it is likely that few members of the Western media will air it, perhaps because they have been intimidated by radical jihadist threats. The only major U.S. newspaper to reprint any of the controversial 2005 Danish cartoons was Denver's Rocky Mountain News. (Thankfully, blogs such as this and this and this (deceased) have been braver.) You can be sure that if these cartoons had mocked Christianity or Judaism, major American newspapers would not have hesitated to print them.

European officials have been similarly cautious. A German court ruled last year that a German Muslim man had the right to beat his wife, as this was permitted under Shariah. (No - don't you recall reading in Leviticus 24:22 something about "You are to have the same law for the alien and the native-born"? hm? It's either German law for everyone, or Shariah law for everyone.) Britain's Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, stated last month that the implementation of some measure of Shariah in Britain was "unavoidable" and British Muslims should have the choice to use Shariah in marital and financial matters. (Caving in...)

I do not defend the right of Geert Wilders to air his film because I agree with it. I expect I will not. (I have not yet seen the film). I defend the right of Mr. Wilders and the media to air this film because free speech is a fundamental right that is the foundation of modern society. Western governments and media outlets cannot allow themselves to be bullied into giving up this precious right due to threats of violence. (Too late, perhaps.) We must not fool ourselves into believing that we can appease the radical jihadist movement by allowing them to set up parallel societies and separate legal systems, or by granting them special protection from criticism.

A central premise of the American experiment are these words from the Declaration of Independence: "All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." There are similar statements in the U.S. Constitution, British Common Law, the Napoleonic Code and the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights. As a result, hundreds of millions in the U.S. and around the world enjoy freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion and many other rights.

These liberties have been won through centuries of debate, conflict and bloodshed. Radical jihadists want to sacrifice all we have learned by returning to a primitive and intolerant world. ("But Islam means peace and submission! Rights for all under Allah!") While modern society invites such radicals to peacefully exercise their faith, we cannot and will not sacrifice our fundamental freedoms.

~~~~~~

For freedom of speech for those in the LCMS, please consider and sign the petition here.

Update: No Compromise has the newly released "Fitna" on her blog's sidebar! Go over and watch it.

Update 3/29: Since LiveLeak, under predictable radical Islamic opposition/threats, has pulled the video, here is Google's version (thanks, Velvet Hammer!).

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Free memory improvement!

HT Angel.

According to this article, an easy/free/not obvious way to help one's memory is to move one's eyes horizontally back and forth for at least 30 seconds. It apparently engages both sides of the brain simultaneously; my guess is that the activity strengthens the corpus callosum; this brought to mind exercises my mother uses when tutoring dyslexic children. These exercises involve "crossing the midline" - i.e. using the right hand/leg to perform a task on the left side, and vice versa. Try it.

--------

The petition to bring back Issues, Etc. has 4329 signatures as of now. Cheryl and I have posted about it; please read those posts and consider adding your signature.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter!

Due to a senior moment, I left the bulletin with the notes from the first sermon (sunrise service) at church. However, the second sermon was just as good; the first is forthcoming and will be inserted once I have opportunity to get the bulletin back. Update: The bulletin got recycled when my choir folder was reorganized. Sorry. (scowls)

Second sermon: readings - Acts 10:34-43, Colossians 3:1-4, and Matthew 28:1-10. However, the text actually came from Revelation 5:9-13.
This is the feast of victory of our God! It gives incalculable joy and blessing. Worthy is Christ, the Lamb who was slain. whose blood set us free to be people of God! Indeed the Lamb was slain - instead of us; God expects perfection. Even being born human places us in the realm of sin, but not even our death would pay for our sins. That is why Christ died - for us. Let us live as the people of God, for so we are.

Do we hoard Christ's attributes to ourselves - power, riches, wisdom, strength, honor, blessing, and glory? They belong to Him alone, but He gives them to us in His supper. We are each a new creation; therefore we praise God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

For the Lamb who was slain has begun His reign. And He will reign forever and ever! Amen.
To all who wished me a blessed Easter and/or included me in their prayers (MK, WayneDawg, and Tammi) and to everyone else - have a blessed Eastertide!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Legality: hot topics

Two notable editorials today: one on the District of Columbia v. Heller case, the second on CA's recent move to severely restrict homeschooling. Below are excerpts plus my comments.

Gun control:
As shoot-outs (cough! relevant metaphor!) go, the Supreme Court had a famous one Tuesday...the debate this week augurs well for a conclusion that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms.

District of Columbia v. Heller has become the test case for a question that has animated legal scholars, politicians and lower courts for much of our modern history: Is the Second Amendment guarantee a collective right, which is to say it is reserved only for state militias, or is it an individual right? (To have a gun or not: that is the question. Cheesy but relevant.)

...

Judging by Tuesday argument, the High Court has a majority in support of the circuit court opinion. Chief Justice John Roberts asked why the Framers included the word "people" if the Amendment only applied to militias. Justice Antonin Scalia discussed the importance the Framers attached to providing citizens the means to protect against tyrannical government. Justice Anthony Kennedy, often the Court's swing vote, informed all in attendance that "In my view, there's a general right to bear arms quite without reference to the militia either way."

The debate also focused on what restrictions, if any, government could impose on such an individual right... [such as] banning even such heavy weapons as machine guns.

In fact, that opinion leaves ample room for a government to regulate machine guns, bazookas and the like -- much as even the First Amendment protects speech as an individual right but not as a right to shout "fire" in a crowded theater. (Freedom coupled with responsibility - what parents should have been teaching their children all along.) We hope the Supreme Court agrees...that the Second Amendment does protect the right to own pistols, rifles and other guns of the kind the American Founders believed were needed to protect liberty.

Certifying parents:
In the annals of judicial imperialism, we have arrived at a strange new chapter. A California court ruled this month that parents cannot "home school" their children without government certification. No teaching credential, no teaching. Parents "do not have a constitutional right to home school their children," wrote California appellate Justice Walter Croskey. (Fie!)

The 166,000 families in the state that now choose to educate their children at home must be stunned. But at least one political lobby likes the ruling. "We're happy," the California Teachers Association's Lloyd Porter told the San Francisco Chronicle. He says the union believes all students should be taught only by "credentialed" teachers, who will in due course belong to unions.

California law requires children between six and 18 to attend a full-time day school. Failure to comply means falling afoul of the state's truancy laws, which say kids can't play hooky without an excuse. But kids who are taught at home are less likely to be truants. (Whaddaya know?) Their parents choose to spend their time teaching English, math and science precisely because they don't think the public schools do a good enough job.

The case was initiated by the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services after a home-schooled child reportedly (note: that word connotes with r-u-m-o-r) complained of physical abuse by his father. A lawyer assigned to two of the family's eight children invoked the truancy law to get the children enrolled in a public school and away from their parents. So a single case of parental abuse is being used to promote the registration of all parents who crack a book for their kids. If this strikes some readers as a tad East German, we know how you feel. (So where exactly are those claiming that socialism is good? Nice crickets.)

That so many families turn to home schooling is a market solution to a market failure -- namely the dismal performance of the local education monopoly. According to the Home School Legal Defense Association, the majority of states have low to moderate levels of regulation for home schools, an environment that has allowed the option to flourish, especially in the South and Western U.S....

For some parents, the motive for home schooling is religious; others want to protect their kids from gangs and drugs. But the most-cited reason is to ensure a good education. Home-schooled students are routinely high performers on standardized academic tests, beating their public school peers on average by as much as 30 percentile points, regardless of subject. They perform well on tests like the SAT -- and colleges actively recruit them both for their high scores and the diversity (!) they bring to campus.

In 1994, a federal attempt to require certification of parent-teachers went down in flames as hundreds of thousands of calls lit up phone banks on Capitol Hill. The movement has since only grown larger and better organized, now conservatively estimated at well over a million nationwide...

If John McCain wants an issue to endear him to cultural conservatives, this would be it (Check out Cheryl's great post). Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama rarely stray from the preferences of the teachers unions, but we'd like to know whether they really favor the certification of parents who dare to believe they know best how to teach their children.

My, what a year!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday: Tenebrae

The readings were Psalm 2, Lamentations 1:1-15, Isaiah 52:13-53:12, Hosea 6:1-6, 1 Peter 2:21-25, 2 Corinthians 5:14-21, and John 19:17-30, the last of which was the focus of the sermon. (Gribbit's church celebrates similar services.)
Our sin is darkness. But Jesus, the world's Light, receives us to Himself.

Pilate's inscription put a spotlight on Jesus' enemies, certain Jews who vehemently denied His deity in favor of their own version of Judaism. The irony: Jesus is THE great High Priest (Hebrews 9)! The unrepentant, then and now, who hate Christ's church, His body, will suffer His judgment.

Pilate himself is the second spotlight. He drew his final line in the sand (not far enough - he let Jesus be crucified by the will of a mob) over the inscription. Do principles have to be sacrificed like this to govern?

Third: the soldiers, sharing a little booty after another "routine" crucifixion. How could they? Look at yourselves. Do you take to heart the word of God, or do you delight in the trivial? Our Savior is with us each day! Values have changed - we should be considering His infinitely great worth, but we don't.

Fourth: Jesus Christ and His attention to the important. Even while He dies, He cares for His disciple (John) and mother. Finally, He finishes fulfilling all Scripture, submitting to His Father's total will with joy. "It is finished" = Paid In Full. He is in charge - He takes care of you and me. He has paid for all your and my iniquities.
Have a blessed Easter, rejoicing in the inexpressible gift of God our Father, having given His own Son Jesus Christ to justify and sanctify all those who believe in His name.

O sacred head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Your only crown.
O sacred head, what glory and bliss did once combine;
Though now despised and gory, I joy to call You mine.

What language can I borrow to thank You, dearest friend,
For this Your dying sorrow, Your mercy without end?
Bind me to You forever, give courage from above'
Let not my weakness sever Your bond of lasting love.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Maundy Thursday

This evening's readings were Psalm 116, Exodus 24:3-11, Hebrews 9:11-22, and Matthew 26:17-30, the last of which was the sermon text.

Jesus celebrates the Passover, a time of unleavened (quick-baked) bread and much lamb's blood. He is the Passover lamb, God's Lamb! "My time is at hand" - something crucial was about to happen. Consider also the miraculous precision of Jesus' directions. He even ate with the one who betrayed Him - Judas, who received the Body and Blood.

"Is it I?" Yes, it is I, whose sins put Him on the cross, although I have not betrayed Him as Judas did. Yet we all deny Him, as Peter did. Because of our sin, we have each wished we had never been born. But if we believe His absolution, by the mercy of God, we receive forgiveness.

Count the items in the Supper:
1. Bread.
2. Body of Jesus Christ.
3. Wine.
4. Blood of Jesus Christ.

Some churches claim only #1 and #3, others only #2 and #4. But there are 4 things there; two just don't disappear. Accept what the Word says - therein is a miracle.
5. Forgiveness of sins!

How can the Sacrament give this? Answer: God's work, a miracle, Christ communing with us. He holds us in His mercy. Soon we will see Him face to face.

Editorial note: As The Stiletto is doing this year, I will not be posting for the rest of Holy Week. Prepare for an Easter Monday mega-post!

Letters!

Today's WSJ published several letters on hot topics: the first, entitlement younguns and iPods (my post about the original here); the second, free speech or lack thereof (my orig. post here); the third, concerning the Church's role in politics/social issues (sorry, I didn't write a post about that one). Now for the goodies. Bold parenthetical material mine.

1.
Writes Julie K. in St. Louis:

The word "clueless" is the perfect, one-word description of today's college students' perception of our nation's economy vs. their standard of living...The pathetic statement by the female student concerning a "radical redistribution of wealth in America" sounds like just another step on the entitlement ladder that her generation aspires to climb.

Writes Theodore W. in Seattle:

We conservatives have lost the minds of the mainstream media, teachers, professors and the young. Constant repetition promotes peer group pressure to believe that corporations are bad, that the "few" -- the rich -- control our lives and do not share with their fellow citizens. And that it is all unfair. And further -- unsaid but clear -- that a few elected officials can manage all of our lives collectively better than we can individually. (Do I detect an inbred lack of responsibility here? No wonder our society is going down the drain!) Even intelligent people, if told the same thing over and over come to believe it.

The young are not taught, and do not seem to know, that our material well-being comes from individuals who take financial and personal risks to better all our lives through advancing products and services that we choose to purchase in great numbers. Students don't seem to realize that entrepreneurs create wealth for all of us, sometimes from nothing but ideas and persuasiveness. They don't seem to understand that "corporations" are owned by all of us, as investors and beneficiaries of retirement and other plans.

They seem to believe that "profits" are cash, most of which is given to executives who don't earn or deserve it. We have failed to educate. (That's why my parents homeschooled me, and why I plan to homeschool, regardless of what California does.)

...Parents have failed their children and our country. It can only get worse.

The United States of America has seen its zenith...

2.
Writes Kurt K. in Houston:
...R. Matthew Poteat's March 14 Letter...thinks academia "advocates as little constraint on individual liberties as possible?" C'mon! How about free speech? That's perhaps the most important individual liberty, and it's routinely trampled by academia. If university culture is truly rooted in the liberal tradition, I suggest that today's branches need some serious pruning.
Need I say more? Maybe it's practice vs. theory?

3.
Writes Dean Z. in Pound Ridge, NY:

Your article "Obama Pastors' Sermons May Violate Tax Laws" (page one, March 10) illustrates the perverse stance churches have taken with regard to politics. With so many of our founding documents and principles referencing God, one would think churches would want to be involved in safeguarding the worldly institutions within which their unworldly messages must be implemented. Likewise for being able to speak out in defense of people and policies that protect those God-given principles, like freedom and equality, and against those who would take them away.

In the name of tax benefits, and backed by a perpetually ludicrous interpretation of the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses, churches have agreed to be bought off to be silent. Therefore, they cannot have a voice in the debate over how to best achieve a fertile environment for so many of their worthy goals, like world peace, prosperity and justice. With the roots of morality silenced on the public institutions that form so much of the infrastructure of our society, is it any wonder what has resulted? Behold, a Faustian bargain. How ironic, and how sad.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Scary events

Political correctness is rising (for ample treatment, please visit PCWatch). Two posts I discovered today on seemingly different topics may be found here and here. The first concerns the out-of-the-blue removal of Issues Etc., an excellent LCMS radio show, from the air and the web. (Thankfully, my father archived all the shows to his computer so that his number actually exceeds the extent of their archives! A petition to bring it back may be found here.) The second concerns a potential national ID card, with a significant chance of being extended to an implanted microchip.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Interesting case

Another update, in the form of an op-ed, concerning the gun-rights case. Bold parenthetical material is mine.

Today, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case of Heller v. District of Columbia, a suit brought by several D.C. citizens contending that the ban on the possession of operable firearms inside one's home violates the Second Amendment....For the first time in recent memory, the Supreme Court will consider the original meaning of a significant passage of the Constitution unencumbered by its own prior decisions....Here's a layman's guide to the significance of the case:

- Heller will be decided on originalist grounds. Among law professors, enforcing the original meaning of the Constitution is highly controversial. Critics of originalism deny that we should be ruled by the "dead hand of the past." They prefer following Supreme Court precedents that may or may not be consistent with original meaning. Any justice who today professes a commitment to originalism is branded a radical (!); and all Supreme Court nominees are now grilled on their commitment to the doctrine of stare decisis. But what are old precedents if not the "dead hand" of dead justices?

Significantly, then, both sides in Heller are making only originalist arguments. The challengers of the law contend that the original meaning of the Second Amendment protects an individual "right to keep and bear arms" that "shall not be infringed." In response, the District does not contend that this right is outmoded and that the Second Amendment should now be reinterpreted in light of changing social conditions. Not at all. It contends instead that, because the original intention of the Framers of the Second Amendment was to protect the continued existence of "a well regulated militia," the right it protects was limited to the militia context.

So one thing is certain. Whoever prevails, Heller will be an originalist decision. This shows that originalism remains the proper method of identifying the meaning of the Constitution. (Quite heartening!)

- The Second Amendment protects an individual right. In the 1960s, gun control advocates dismissed the Second Amendment as protecting the so-called "collective right" of states to preserve their militias -- notwithstanding that, everywhere else in the Constitution, a "right" of "the people" refers to an individual right of persons, and the 10th Amendment expressly distinguishes between "the people" and "the states." (Hmmm...interpreting in context! Would that more people did that.) Now even the District asserts the new theory that, while this right is individual, it is "conditioned" on a citizen being an active participant in an organized militia. Therefore, whoever wins, Heller won't be based on a "collective" right of the states. (More heartening news!)

Still, a ruling upholding an unconditioned individual right to arms and invalidating the ban is unlikely to have much effect on current gun laws. (::grumbles::) Here's why:

- Heller is a federal case. Because the District of Columbia is a federal entity, Heller provides a clean application of the Second Amendment which, like the rest of the Bill of Rights, originally applied only to the federal government. Before a state or municipal gun law can be challenged, the Supreme Court will have to decide that the right to keep and bear arms is also protected by the 14th Amendment, which limits state powers.

Nowadays, the Court asks whether a particular right is "incorporated" into the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment, an unpopular doctrine among some conservatives. Of course, after recognizing an unconditioned individual right in Heller, affording it less protection from states than other enumerated rights now receive would be awkward -- especially given the overwhelming evidence that the right to keep and bear arms was among the "privileges or immunities of citizens" to which the 14th Amendment refers. Those who wrote the amendment were concerned about enabling black freeman and white Republicans in the South to protect themselves from violence, including terrorism by local militias. (For MK, personal defense is a hot topic, given his native Australia's gun control laws: here and here and here, to name only a few.)

Finally, Heller involves a complete ban on operable firearms in the home. No state has a comparable law. And under current Supreme Court doctrine, even the First Amendment rights of speech and assembly are subject to reasonable time, place, and manner regulations. So too would be gun rights.

But although the implications of striking down the D.C. gun ban are limited, a decision upholding an unqualified individual right in Heller would still be a significant victory for individual rights and constitutionalism. (YES!) To shrink from enforcing a clear mandate of the Constitution -- as, sadly, the Supreme Court has often done in the past -- would create a new precedent that would be far more dangerous to liberty than any weapon in the hands of a citizen.

I'm praying for a good decision; none of us wants any more Columbines, NIUs, etc.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Jeremiah session 10: chapters 30-33

Since the warm-up for the sermon today infringed upon my attending Bible class, a good friend took notes for me. Here they are:

  • Ch. 30. Anticipatory of Jesus' final return. Verses 8-17: promise of restoration, but judgment (to them and their captors). Verse 9: foreshadow of Christ. Verse 13: see Is. 53:5.
  • 31:1-9. Mention of Ephraim (v. 9); at this time, no northern kingdom - looking beyond exile to Christ. Verse 5 - reference to restoration, including Samaria. Israelites --> Samaritans + Jews. Jesus talks to Samaritan woman; Good Samaritan story. Acts 8 - Philip preaching the gospel in Samaria. Acts 1:9 - Samaria and ends of the earth. Jew --> Samaritan --> God fearers. Acts 13 - our (Gentiles') Pentecost.
  • 31:15. Foreshadowing Matthew 2:18 - Herod killing children.
  • 31:31-34. => Hebrews 8:8-12, 10:16-17 (longest section quoted in NT). Covenant - has to do with promise - God's part, none of ours, brought by the death of its Maker (Christ). Lord/husband - same word - baal - "torah" on their hearts - whole word - law + gospel. Heb. 10:16 - Holy Spirit says "I will make covenant." Christ fulfills covenant. Father makes covenant in Jeremiah. Jer. 33:17 - no lack of King or Priest => Jesus.

Palm Sunday: St. Matthew Passion

...more precisely, Heinrich Schutz's St. Matthew Passion. My church choir (me included) sang it this morning; it substituted for both the reading and the sermon. Hopefully a recording will be forthcoming. Below is the text (close to the one we sang, translated from German), Matthew 26-27:

26:1 When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples, 2 “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.”

3 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, 4 and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. 5 But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.”

Jesus Anointed at Bethany

6 Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, [1] 7 a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. 8 And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? 9 For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” 10 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12 In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”

Judas to Betray Jesus

14 Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.

The Passover with the Disciples

17 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” 19 And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover.

20 When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. [2] 21 And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” 23 He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” 25 Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.”

Institution of the Lord's Supper

26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the [3] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.”

Jesus Foretells Peter's Denial

30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 31 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 32 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 33 Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” 35 Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.

Jesus Prays in Gethsemane

36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch [4] with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. [5] See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus

47 While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” 49 And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. 50 Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” [6] Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. 51 And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant [7] of the high priest and cut off his ear. 52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” 55 At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. 56 But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.

Jesus Before Caiaphas and the Council

57 Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. 58 And Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end. 59 Now the chief priests and the whole Council [8] were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, 60 but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward 61 and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’” 62 And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” [9] 63 But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. 66 What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” 67 Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, 68 saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?”

Peter Denies Jesus

69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70 But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” 71 And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” 73 After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” 74 Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

Jesus Delivered to Pilate

27:1 When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. 2 And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor.

Judas Hangs Himself

3 Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus [10] was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, 4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” 5 And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. 6 But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money.” 7 So they took counsel and bought with them the potter's field as a burial place for strangers. 8 Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 9 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, 10 and they gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord directed me.”

Jesus Before Pilate

11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

The Crowd Chooses Barabbas

15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. 16 And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17 So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. 19 Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” 20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”

Pilate Delivers Jesus to Be Crucified

24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man's blood; [11] see to it yourselves.” 25 And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” 26 Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged [12] Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.

Jesus Is Mocked

27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor's headquarters, [13] and they gathered the whole battalion [14] before him. 28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.

The Crucifixion

32 As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross. 33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34 they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. 35 And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. 36 Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. 37 And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” 38 Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. 39 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.

The Death of Jesus

45 Now from the sixth hour [15] there was darkness over all the land [16] until the ninth hour. [17] 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47 And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” 48 And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.

51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son [18] of God!”

55 There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, 56 among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

Jesus Is Buried

57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

The Guard at the Tomb

62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard [19] of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.

The concluding chorus: "Praise to You, O Christ Jesus! You have suffered pain, on the wood of the cross for us a bitter death. You reign with the Father forevermore! Help us poor sinners to everlasting life. Kyrie eleison [Lord, have mercy]."

17 March update: Cheryl has posted a detailed account of the actual service!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A great American football game?

In two previous posts, you have read about McCain's fiscal policy. Although I know several readers who can't stand him and would rather vote for, say, Ron Paul, here are excerpts from another op-ed defending him from a conservative's point of view. Writes Mark Sanford, SC governor (emphasis and bold parenthetical material mine):

...[W]e have only five to 10 years to address the federal government's looming shortfalls before we're faced with a fiscal crisis.

In about a decade, the twin forces of demographics and compound interest will leave few options for solving the fiscal mess Washington has created. By then, our options will all be ugly. We could make draconian spending cuts, or impose large tax increases that will undermine our economy in the competitive global marketplace. Or we could debase the value of the dollar by printing a large amount of money. This would shrink the overall value of the federal government's debt. It would also wipe out the value of most Americans' savings.

...The U.S. stands at a fiscal crossroads -- and the consequences of inaction, or wrongful action, will be real and severe.

Fortunately, the presidential election offers us a real choice in how to address the fiscal mess. To use a football analogy, we're at halftime; and the question for conservatives is whether to get off the bench for the second half of the game.

I sat out the first half, not endorsing a candidate, occupied with my day job and four young boys at home. But I'm now stepping onto the field and going to work to help John McCain. It's important that conservatives do the same.

It's easy to get caught up in the pursuit of political perfection, and to assume that if a candidate doesn't agree with you 100% of the time, then he doesn't deserve your support. In fact, Mr. McCain is a lot closer to 100% than many conservatives realize. He has never voted for a tax increase in his 25 years in Congress. He holds an 83% lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union. He is listed as a taxpayer hero by Citizens Against Government Waste. And he is supported by noted conservatives Phil Gramm, Jack Kemp and others.

The process of iron sharpening iron is good for the GOP. But now, I believe, the time has passed for focusing on what divides us....

Since 2000, the federal budget has increased 72%, to $3.1 trillion from $1.8 trillion. The national debt is now $9 trillion -- more than the combined GDP of China, Japan and Canada. Add in Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security commitments, and as a nation we are staring at more than a $50 trillion hole -- an invisible mortgage of $450,000 for every American family.

Hope alone won't carry us through the valley of the shadow of debt. The fact that neither Mrs. Clinton nor Mr. Obama has made cost-cutting a part of their political vocabulary is a clear indication that they would increase spending. In fact, Mrs. Clinton has already proven skillful at snagging pork. Over the past few years alone, she has attached some $2.2 billion in earmarks to federal spending bills. Mr. McCain has asked for exactly $0 in earmarks.

And while Mr. Obama's oratorical skills have been inspiring, his proposals would entail roughly the same $800 billion in new government spending that Mrs. Clinton proposes. To his credit, Mr. Obama admits that his spending proposals will take more than three clicks of his heels to fund. He would pay for his priorities with a bevy of tax increases which he hopes taxpayers won't notice.

But taxpayers will notice. Mr. Obama plans to raise taxes on capital gains, dividends and corporate profits. He wants to hike estate taxes by 50%. And he wants to eliminate the cap on payroll taxes. These tax hikes would increase the burden borne by individuals and decrease the competitiveness of our economy.

...

Now, in John McCain, the GOP has a standard-bearer who would be willing to turn the power of the presidency toward controlling federal spending. Mr. McCain has one of the best spending records in Congress, and has never shied away from criticizing government pork-barrel spending.

The contrast between the two opposing teams is stark. It is time for the entire conservative squad to step onto the field. Who will join me in helping our team get the ball and move it down the field?

Even though I don't watch football save for family coercion, that's pretty stirring.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Nasty deprivement!

Thanks to a stern (some would say authoritarian) father, I was mostly spared from the generation described in this article (De Gustibus, author Stephen Moore). I know several of my readers that wouldn't be able to keep from laughing at least a little either. Read on and see why. Bold parenthetical material is, as usual, mine.

A few weeks ago I gave a talk on the state of the economy to a group of college students -- almost all Barack Obama enthusiasts -- who were griping about how downright awful things are in America today. As they sipped their Starbucks lattes and adjusted their designer sunglasses, they recited their grievances: The country is awash in debt "that we will have to pay off"; the middle class in shrinking; the polar ice caps are melting; and college is too expensive. (Don't you just love the ironic juxtaposition? Give up a latte a day and add the money to your savings account. Simple?)

I've been speaking to groups like this one for more than 20 years, but I have never confronted such universal pessimism from a young audience. Its members acted as if the hardships of modern life are making it nearly impossible for them to get out of bed in the morning. (My father would here pantomime playing the world's smallest violin, about 4".) So I conducted a survey of these grim youngsters. How many of you, I asked, own a laptop? A cellphone? An iPod, a DVD player, a flat-screen digital TV? To every question somewhere between two-thirds and all of the hands in the room rose. But they didn't even get my point. "Well, duh," one of them scoffed, "who doesn't have an iPod these days?" (Um, red herring fallacy? Bandwagon? What ARE they teaching them in the schools?) I was way too embarrassed to tell them that I, for one, don't. They thought that living without these products would be like going back to prehistoric times. (Another violin solo.)

They seemed clueless that as recently as the early 1980s only the richest people in the world had cellphones....

So why the long faces? Sen. Obama reminds them every day of how dreary things are....

...As late as 1970, air conditioning, color TVs, washing machines, dryers and microwaves were considered luxuries. Today the vast majority of even poor families have these things in their homes. Almost one in three "poor" families has not one but at least two cars.

Consumption in real per-capita terms has nearly doubled since 1970. The single largest increase in expenditures for low-income households over the past 20 years was for audio and visual entertainment systems -- up 119%. (We sure could use a few of those $40 coupons, couldn't we.) In 2007 Americans spent an estimated $1 billion to change the tune of the ringer on their cellphones. Eating in restaurants used to be something the rich did regularly and the middle class did on special occasions. The average family now spends $2,700 a year dining out. (Assuming the average family has approximately 3.2 members, that comes out to about $2.30 per person PER DAY. Even with just McDonald's, that's almost a full meal.)

...

When I was young my parents used to drill in me the moral imperative of eating everything on my plate, and they recited the (tall?) tale of how they even ate what would now be considered dog food during the darkest days of the Great Depression. The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association reports that Americans now spend $36 billion a year on their dogs, cats, turtles and so on, and one of the hottest-selling consumer items is "diet pet food." We have become a nation of fat cats -- literally. I have a friend whose daughter insisted that he spend $200 on eye surgery for their hamster. (I want to see that hamster read the eye chart!) (Yet another violin solo.)

After my lecture, one young woman walked up to me on her way out and huffed: "What I favor is a radical redistribution of wealth in America." (Are there Young Communista clubs in four-year schools these days? Guess I'll find out.) I tried to tell her that America's greatness is a result of our focus on creating wealth, not redistributing it. But it was too late -- she was already tuning in to her iPod.

The veering path to a Ph.D

In response to this interview, WSJ readers have opined a variety of reasons for the phenomenon of liberals dominating conservatives, number-wise, in higher education (case in point: doctoral degrees).

  • The interviewees themselves, Matthew Woessner and April Kelly-Woessner, both Ph.Ds, blame "the path to the doctoral degree itself" - i.e. "an additional five to seven years of schooling." This obstacle affects mainly "family-oriented college students."

  • Charles S. in NY: "[T]enure. We don't aspire to protected-species status."
  • Nan M. in Raleigh, NC offers a rather detailed explanation of an odd phenomenon:

    When university professors see they're stuck in a system that does not necessarily reward hard work, many come to scorn the system that does -- capitalism. And because university professors know that to advance they must invent a new theory -- or reinvent an old one -- many choose to wage war on capitalism and to argue passionately for income redistribution. In academe, leftist notions sell, and Marxism revisited has become a highly profitable enterprise in universities nationwide.

    Graduate students and untenured faculty catch on quickly. They must admire, or seem to admire, the ruling orthodoxy -- liberalism -- or risk being tagged "reactionary," which could wreck their prospects for employment or tenure. Grantors, taxpayers and tuition-paying parents then become unwitting patrons of scholars who sneer at the very ones who guarantee income, tenure, benefits, and the prospect of a lifelong pension. Only in academe can a young professional rise to stardom by exploiting the very system he or she claims to detest.

  • James B. in Durham, NC: "Academics tend left because in a prosperous society ideas can be divorced from action..."
  • R. P. in Lynchburg, VA thinks along the lines of J. B.: "University culture is rooted in part in the liberal tradition of the Enlightenment...in other words, change. Change tends to be an anathema to conservatives who honor tradition, convention, and time-honored practices (Edmund Burke, etc.)."
I know I have quite a long road ahead of me, uphill all the way. But the challenge, I think, will make it at least a little bit fun.