October 31, 2002

Senator Wellstone's Memorial Service and other thoughts

A lot of disgust with the Democrats' handling of Senator Wellstone's death and the associated memorial service can be described by one word hypocrisy. The Democrats trounced on Coleman for attacking Mondale before the funeral, and then used the occasion of the funeral to conduct a campaign rally. It wouldn't even surprise me if I heard that they wanted a donation to be invited.

But here's another instance: Remember how John Ashcroft was vilified for saying that he was going to allow the FBI to monitor religious and activist organizations, in the name of fighting terrorism? My reaction to that was "well - I don't really like spying, but FBI agents are citizens, and are free to visit and join churches and organizations, so how are they going to keep them out if they don't want them there?" Given the support given to eco-terrorist groups by groups like PETA (link), I'd kindof like to see some more undercover work being done, actually.

Well, for all the vilification of John Ashcroft, what does the Unitarian Universalist Association recommend its activist-members do? Monitor (i.e. spy on) the Religious Right! I like these two the best, especially since they most closely match what the FBI is doing:

  • Monitor Religious Right activities by dropping in regularly to read bulletin boards in Christian bookstores, or by visiting a conservative fundamentalist church in your local area.

  • Listen carefully to conversations in public places.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 01:15 PM | Comments (0)

October 30, 2002

Thoughts on Senator Wellstone

I don't know how to respond to the news of the memorial for Senator Wellstone turning into a political rally, with Republican attendees being booed, and Governor Ventura and his wife walking away due to the partisan rhetoric.

Here's how I know I don't feel. Did Michael Moore write this? This is outrageous, like something he would write.

Here's something I can agree with.

When I read about the goings on at that event, I wondered if I responded correctly with my comments about Senator Wellstone. I decided I did. Look, I'd be dishonest if I said I didn't feel some joy at having gotten rid of the most liberal Senator in America, but let me make something absolutely clear. That thought was in my brain for only about two seconds before I rebuked it and told myself to never think that way about anyone again. It's not right to rejoice at anyone's death, not a political opponent, not even the death of a mortal enemy. I support capital punishment, but I don't dance at the event either. It's serious - human life is sacred, and losing it should be mourned.

Meanwhile, I see that Wellstone's death has prompted Michael Niman to wonder if Paul Wellstone was murdered (I'm sure you've all seen the similar story by Ted Rall). Others wonder if Ted Rall may have been behind it. I don't buy conspiracy theories, but this event clearly helps the Democrats more than the Republicans. I don't see why the Republicans would have done such a thing if defeating Wellstone was within their reach.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 10:12 PM | Comments (0)

In Unitarian Universalist congregations, they

In Unitarian Universalist congregations, they have a ritual of lighting a chalice at the beginning of worship services, usually by a layperson saying some words of dedication. Here's a phrase you can say which can pretty much guarantee you'll be sitting alone at their next pot luck:

If a million moms believe a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing.
(apologies to Anatole France for the deliberate misquotation)

Million Mom March
UUA, 2000 Action of Immediate Witness, Handgun Legislation

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 09:52 PM | Comments (0)

Someone looking at the name

Someone looking at the name of my blog and reading my last post might wonder "how is Harry Stein associated with the Religious Right?" The answer is he isn't, and this gets back to my point in my original post: Why Religious Left Watch? (scroll down to see it). There is no such thing as The Religious Right, it is just a label used by organizations used by organizations such as People for the American Way to describe their political opponents. Are you opposed to campaign finance reform? You're one of those religious right-wingers! Against gun control? Charlton Heston has been painted as a leader of the religious right even though his organization, the National Rifle Association, is not a religious organization at all. Take a look at this, the People for the American Way's Right Wing Watch. First off, let me give a little credit. The term "Religious Right" is used a lot less than it used to be. In researching websites such as this one, I've noticed that within the last year they are using the term less often. Maybe September 11 had something to do with it; two years ago it was all over the place. Go over to the link for fact sheets. You will find that only one of the listed sites is a religious organization, The Christian Coalition. Others are dedicated to conservative values, yes, but not religious. The Heritage Foundation is dedicated to welfare reform, reducing the size of the welfare state, not spreading the Gospel. Same for the others, conservative values yes, religious values no.
So the bottom line is that the term "Religious Right" is used only as a scare tactic intended to keep non-religious people from considering conservative political views.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 09:38 PM | Comments (0)

Several posts today, there was

Several posts today, there was a lot of stuff on the web today. Main topic is censorship and political correctness. Several links to show here, first one: Lynn Sislo comments on my site.
Here's her conclusion:

Again, no one is actually preventing me from writing about religion or anything else. My freedom of expression is intact to the extent that I choose to exercise it. I would simply ask others to realize that the same is true for you also. Okay, so maybe some people would like to shut you up, but they haven't succeeded in doing so and in America or on the Internet they never will. I think maybe the real problem some people have is that there is more freedom than ever before - even for people we disagree with. Go ahead and speak your mind but respect the rights of others to tell you that you're full of it if that's what they believe.

I agree with her, except for the first sentence. While no one is preventing me or most people in casual conversation in what we say, when you go to college campuses and public speeches, a different picture emerges. Here's an example from FrontPage Magazine that I saw this morning. It's an account from Harry Stein of how he was smeared with the "racist" label after a speech he gave in Texas. Here's his opening:
It probably shouldn’t have come as a surprise. After all, as a conservative of fairly recent vintage, I’ve seen how easy it is for liberals, assisted by a compliant press, to cast ideological foes as moral reprobates and thus avoid engaging their ideas. Hadn’t it happened to a slew of judicial nominees, from Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas to, most recently, Thomas Pickering and Priscilla Owen—as well as to a long line of conservative politicians and social critics? Such attacks, coming as they do from those who assert their passionate tolerance, succeed because they are so hard to respond to. They are like the classic below-the-belt question: “When did you stop beating your wife?” But today’s underhanded question—“When did you become a sexist or a homophobe or (worst of all) a racist?”—is even more lethal: the accusatory word cuts short any argument and puts the target on the defensive, as those whom you’d expect to stand firm for principle melt away.

I think it is poor form to stigmatize someone for using a politically incorrect word in a quotation. It was clear from the context of Mr. Stein's comments that the word was not used in a sentence that was formulated in his mind. It was just plain old political correctness, designed to intimidate him into silence, and in this case, also to intimidate his supporters. This may not be censorship in the sense of someone being arrested and imprisoned for his views, but let's put it in the context of Lynn Sislo's sentence: Someone was clearly attempting to prevent him from speaking, using the accusation of "racism" to bully him into silence, and bullying his supporters into repudiating his comments, helping to ensure that he would not be invited to speak again.

So let's consider the question: Just what is censorship anyway? Primarily, I think of it as any action by government to silence free speech, and under this standard, we are indeed a country of unmatched freedom. Let's widen the definition a bit however. Would it be censorship if a group of student activists stole newspapers from newstands that had advertisements for opposing points of view, as recently happened at several campuses? I'd call it such. I'd classify that as an act of force used to prevent the expression of an opposing point of view. What about the actions of student protestors at Concordia University when Benjamin Netanyahu spoke? I'd call this censorship, as it was another act of force intended to prevent his speech from being heard. I'd call Harry Stein's example censorship as well. So while I agree with Lynn Sislo that many people (such as leftist college professors and editors at The Nation) complain of censorship too quickly, I disagree with her in that I believe it happens more often than she realizes.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 08:44 PM | Comments (0)

October 29, 2002

The National Council of Churches

The National Council of Churches enters the fray and denounces the comments of the Rev. Jerry Falwell. The Institute on Religion and Democracy fisks their response. Here's an excerpt from IRD's comments I particularly like:

But organs like the NCC, which prefer leftist politics to serious Christian ministry, would never defend Jesus Christ in the face of blasphemy with the same ardor, if at all, with which they defend the Prophet Muhammad. Nor, most terribly, will they have seriously advocate on behalf of persecuted Christians. Indeed, notice how the NCC avoided even acknowledging that indigenous churches in Islamic countries are threatened by Islamists. Instead the NCC focused on the safety of missionaries and spoke vaguely about "national security."

For the NCC and other religious leftists, conservative Christians like Falwell are the real enemy, not Islamic regimes that curtail, imprison and even murder Christians and other non-Muslims.

President Bush must "repudiate and condemn Falwell's remarks," the NCC insisted, tacitly agreeing with overseas Islamic voices that somehow the American president is responsible for the actions of a Baptist pastor in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Would the NCC ever direct such a resolution at the Iranian president or Saudi monarch, holding them accountable for hateful statements from Islamic clerics in their countries? We should pray for that but should not hold our breath.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 08:20 PM | Comments (0)

The Confessing Theologians Commission has

The Confessing Theologians Commission has produced an excellent letter, Be Steadfast: A Letter to Confessing Christians, which provides answers to three questions:

    • Why should we remain in our churches?
    • Why do our churches need faithful confessors?
    • Why does our society need faithful Christian confessors?

The intent is to inspire members of mainline denominations to church renewal. I heartily endorse this statement.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 08:10 PM | Comments (0)

October 27, 2002

When I first started this

When I first started this blog, I confessed that I didn't like the name all that much, even though it was going to be most of what I discussed. Since then I've gotten some feedback which is very positive, and I've decided to keep the name (I've grown to like it more too). Here's some feedback I got from someone a while back for this post.

Jesus once likened Himself to the brass serpent that Moses was ordered to put on a pole to save people from snakebite. Jesus says in John 3:14-15, "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth may in him have eternal life" (American Standard Version).

Jesus is making reference to an incident recorded in Numbers 21. The whole chapter has a more detailed description, but verses 8 and 9 are sufficient to show what Jesus was talking about: "And Jehovah said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a standard: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he seeth it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and set it upon the standard: and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he looked unto the serpent of brass, he lived" (ASV).

So there are two very basic risks for us as Christians in the work we try to do:

1) Looking away from Jesus ourselves or failing to look at Jesus as our only salvation, for we will fall to snakebite that way, and....

2) Not holding up Jesus so that others can look unto Him and be saved.

It can't be said that Jesus does not support social activism and social justice, as He Himself was an advocate for the downtrodden in our world. However, for some reason, denominations feel it necessary to reject Jesus and His teachings in order to do social activism. They go it alone, trying to be "tolerant" and not hold up any particular moral standard, distancing themselves from Jesus. The problem is, without Jesus, they can do nothing (John 15:5). Furthermore, it shows that they are ashamed of Jesus, and He has specific words for that circumstance (see Mark 8:38).

It is always a problem when people look away from Jesus to "something else" to save them from the various snakebites we get in this world. When it isn't Jesus we are holding up, when it is just the "goodness of our hearts" that leads us to try to help, it's not enough, because the most bleeding heart can't bleed enough to actually provide lasting, eternal help. Only the heart that bled for all people once, the heart of Christ, can bring about real healing in both this world and the next.

So it is a very good service you are providing to remind people that without Jesus, we have nothing at all to offer the world. It is good that we are reminded not to look to ourselves, or look to a denomination, or a para-church organization, or the culmination of ecumenism, as any sort of answer to the problem of this world. The answer from God has already been given in Christ, and it is our duty to help others avail themselves of this solution as we have.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 11:26 PM | Comments (0)

I don't talk about sports

I don't talk about sports much on this blog, since it's off-topic, but I've got to extend congratulations to Emmitt Smith for getting the all-time rushing yardage title. I'm a native Texan, and used to live in Dallas. As a Cowboys fan, it's been pretty frustrating the last few years, but seeing Emmitt get his title is a great joy to see - the same feeling I had when Walter Payton broke the record.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 11:13 PM | Comments (0)

October 26, 2002

I feel a need to

I feel a need to comment on the death of Senator Paul Wellstone again, after reading several comments about him. I've read from many people who are saddened by his death, and a few who won't miss him at all because of his political views. To those all I can say is that I am disappointed that this race may be won by forfeit (but who will win, is this a sure thing for either side?). In sports, it is regrettable when a team loses an event this way. The point: Elections should be held between the best of all involved parties.

Back when I was a Democrat, back in 1996, I was having a conversation with some of my Democrat friends, and we were talking about the upcoming primaries. They were expressing the hope that Bob Dole would lose, because it would make it easier for Clinton to win the Presidency. I disagreed. I said that elections should be between the best Republican and the best Democrat, along with the best Libertarian, or Green, or Socialist (though I think "best of" means less and less the further to the right you go in my last sentence except Libertarian is out of order). They accused me of being a covert Republican. Little did I know back then that they were right, but my point is still valid: For the good of the country, it is important that elections be between the best of all parties involved. No victory should be automatic or assumed, though, as an exception, I disagreed with the NJ ruling on Lautenberg, because it was written law which the SCONJ overturned and it happened well after the primary.

Also see this commentary from Peggy Noonan.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 05:31 PM | Comments (0)

I too, was saddened by

I too, was saddened by the death of Senator Paul Wellstone, along with his wife, daughter, and others in the plane with them. I'll admit I disagreed with his political opinions, but he served our country with integrity and honesty based on everything I've read of him. I wish to extend sympathy to the rest of their family and friends.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 01:27 PM | Comments (0)

Relief and sadness over the

Relief and sadness over the events in Moscow. I haven't caught up on all the news yet, but I've read that 67 of the hostages were killed. Not good, but a lot better than what could have happened - a lot better. Jeffrey Collins has more info.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 09:55 AM | Comments (0)

Late thanksgiving for the arrest

Late thanksgiving for the arrest of the sniper - Should have done this Thursday night, but other thoughts preoccupied my mind. Now that it's over, this is what I intended to publish last night.

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.

For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will lift me high upon a rock.

And now my head shall be lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.
Psalm 27:1-6 ESV

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 09:40 AM | Comments (0)

Back to normal, I hope.....

Back to normal, I hope.....

Message to all you conservatives out there: Anytime someone tells you that all you conservatives are just a bunch of meanies, show them this and this.
(link number 2 from Jason Steffens - thanks!)

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 09:28 AM | Comments (0)

October 24, 2002

Today's Corner has two excellent

Today's Corner has two excellent posts by Rod Dreher commenting on a speech by Bat Ye'or:
Part 1
Part 2
A lot of this stuff about Islam came out after I left the Unitarian Universalist Association, however I keep up with what they do, and there is a big emphasis within that denomination to practice tolerance of, and stand up for, Muslims in America. Now that is noble, don't get me wrong. What I have trouble with is:
1) tolerance is extended to mean not just letting Muslims enjoy religious freedom, but participating in Muslim activities and furthering Muslim goals,
2) that they never act that way toward Christians. No, Christians are always railed against in public dialog, and Christian goals are fought against - "fight the Religious Right!"
Now, with respect to Rod Dreher's post on dhimmitude, is tolerance (as defined in #1 above) intended to go as far as implementing sharia law in America?
If so, are those who preach tolerance aware that dhimmis (non-Muslims) do not enjoy equal civil rights under sharia law? Remember Jim Crow?
If not, where do they propose that we draw a line which we will not cross with respect to true religious freedom in this country, and how will that line be respected? And don't tell me that religious freedom is guaranteed by our Constitution. When we allow judges to reinterpret the meanings of words in our Constitution according to political whims, the First Amendment is a shaky foundation.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 11:03 PM | Comments (0)

Today's Goldberg file over at

Today's Goldberg file over at National Review Online, Might vs. Right
, has some good commentary on what makes for corrupt leaders, and it just isn't the status of their position. I decided to start reading it with a skeptical eye, but wound up agreeing with him.
Back in the Unitarian Universalist Association, there are a lot of people who say things like "Question Authority!" and "Speak Truth to Power!". Very anti-authority, which has a place sometimes, and is just reckless demagoguery other times. I modified my beliefs to "Question Everything!" and found myself traveling a road similar to C.S. Lewis's and G.K. Chesterton's, eventually reaffirming my Christian faith. As far as speaking the truth goes, I have a similar opinion as Mr. Goldberg regarding morality and power: fighting against presumed oppression does not equal telling the truth. Rigoberta Menchu won the Nobel Peace Prize for fighting for the oppressed people of Guatamala, and she was exposed as a liar soon after. I'll have to continue this later, gotta run..

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 07:08 PM | Comments (0)

Today's NRO has an article

Today's NRO has an article about international adoptions, Finding American Homes
. Amy and I are doing that, adopting a child from China, expected homecoming between Mothers' and Fathers' Days, 2004.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 07:00 PM | Comments (0)

October 23, 2002

An item I saw on

An item I saw on Town Hall caught my eye today, a column by Dennis Prager A Jew defends Evangelical Christians. Mark Shea notices it too, and states a position I agree with, so let me link to his words. To this I only add that I find it strange that the Christian motive of love, borne out of the desire for someone else's salvation and prosperity, could be labeled as hate by those who do not understand or believe the Gospel.

About a month ago, at the end of the Jewish festival of Sukkoth, some Messianic Jewish friends of mine took me to a Messianic service in Philadelphia. Amazing worship service, these people really love the Lord! They put most of the charismatics I've ever known to shame. Loud singing, dancing, raising hands, a sermon about John 7, where Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Jews' Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkoth), and blowing the shofar! This type of service is not for those who like to sit still! The position that Jews cannot be Christians, held by conservative and orthodox synagogues, is not held by the evangelical community; while Jewish converts to Christianity can be expelled from their synagogues, there are Messianic synagogues springing up around the country to accomodate those who "store new wine in new wineskins" (see Matthew 9:10-17).

Dispatches from Outland refers me to National Review Online today, Aborting Child Protection, where Planned Parenthood is exposed as acting to protect the confidentiality of young women (aka girls) seeking abortions, even when their pregnancies may be the product of statutory rape. This issue was also highlighted in World magazine several issues ago. Good job on shining the light on these folks and exposing this practice. My position is that abortion confidentiality is an abrogation of parents' rights and laws protecting such confidentiality should be overturned. I don't think we can realistically expect to overturn Roe vs. Wade; I agree with Mitch McConnell that it is pretty much settled law. I would at least prefer to see some reasonable limits to the abominable practice of abortion, however. It's not a violation of anyones' rights, as there is absolutely no such thing as a right to abortion. That "right", created ex nihilo by those who wish to do away with any boundaries of sexual behaviour, directly conflicts with the first right -- the right to life.

Religious Leftists have told me that my position is not valid because I'm mixing religion with politics. I remind them that many in the nineteenth century church (including many from their denomination, the Unitarians) were active in abolition. Wasn't that mixing religion with politics too? They say "No! That was a human rights issue" I say "So is this! And that is indeed the reason I came around to a pro-life point of view". Should I remind them that the two icons of early feminism, Susan B. Anthony and Ellen Stauton, were also pro-life?

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 10:39 PM | Comments (0)

October 22, 2002

This is not meant to

This is not meant to sound like boasting, I honestly hope that by saying this I can encourage others to do likewise.

Tomorrow (actually starting now), I will fast and pray for the people of Virginia and Maryland (and surrounding region). I pray that the fear that torments so many will come to an end, and that the sniper will be caught and brought to justice.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 10:14 PM | Comments (0)

When I was in college,

When I was in college, a math professor was talking about euclidean geometry. I was about to ask him why it wasn't capitalized, but he beat me to it. He said when you make a great contribution to science you get a law or something named after you in capital letters, such as Newton's Laws of Motion, or Einstein's Theory of Relativity. When your name becomes a lower-case common noun, however, that denotes you've arrived - true greatness indeed.

I notice that Samizdata.net uses the lower-case form for "fisk" in its glossary. Mark Byron (can't find the permalink-sorry) also uses the lower-case form in a sentence that has my name in it!

Glenn Reynolds uses the uppercase form, however.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 10:09 PM | Comments (0)

In my fisking of the

In my fisking of the UUWorld article last week, I dismiss one paragraph, "the rest of the paragraph is just as incredible", way too quickly. Let me elaborate on that.

Reverend Parker claims that Christianity's doctrine of the Atonement is formulated by Anselm of Canterbury in the eleventh century. Many passages in the New Testament serve to tell us that just isn't so; the Atonement is well-established Christian doctrine in the first century. See Paul's letters to the Romans, Galatians, Colossians, the letter to the Hebrews, the Gospel of Luke, the Gospel of John, many other references to God's forgiveness being extended to us through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus.

The rest of the paragraph should not be dismissed out of hand, however. There is historical evidence that mercenaries were provided with religious incentive to fight in the Crusades. The linkage to the Atonement doctrine is non-existent, however. Jesus never told His disciples they would be rewarded for killing their enemies. On the contrary, He said they would be judged on their compassion for others, which I include to mean, since Jesus said so, loving their enemies. The logic that Reverend Parker uses to blame Christianity for all the violence that the world suffers from today is tortuous indeed.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 09:51 PM | Comments (0)

Recently, I said that the

Recently, I said that the Nazis "had about as much to do with Christianity as Timothy McVeigh". My syntax wasn't exactly clear there, but I think most people understood that I was saying that the Nazis were definitely not a Christian sect. They were a bunch of thugs who bullied the church in Germany into submission, and put their own people in charge. Hitler had the goal of eliminating Christianity from Germany, or failing that, making it a tool of the state.

I recently replied to a reader asking for some historical information on this subject. My main reference is the book "Christianity on Trial", by Vincent Carroll and Dave Shiflett. The following is copied from my reply.

About the Nazis and the church, I highly recommend the book "Christianity on Trial", for which I link to the Amazon.com site in my blog entry. I'm looking at the book now, and according to what I read, Hitler and the Nazis were not acting in the name of Christianity, but actually wanted to destroy it. The church in Germany was silent because it was being oppressed by the Nazis. Carroll and Shiflett say,

"The Catholic German Center Party was extinguished; Christian trade unions were undermined; religious youth groups were bullied and vilified, and their sporting events, camps, parades and uniforms banned. Monks and nuns by the hundreds were brought up on bogus charges of currency violations and sexual perversion."

A few pages later, they say,

"It is easy for those who do not live under a totalitarian regime to expect heroism from those who do, but it is an expectation that will often be disappointed. Christians in Germany did not fall over one another defying the Nazi state. That is a fact, and a melancholy one for sure. A significant number welcomed the advent of Hitler. Yet it is equally true that the price of defiance could be very high, involving death or deportation. In such a context it should be less surprising that the mass of Christians were silent than that some believed strongly enough to pay for their faith with their lives."
They close the chapter with details of several Christian theologians, both German, and from Rome, who condemned the actions of the Nazis. Details are given of Pastor Martin Niemoller, who voted for the National Socialists in 1933, but who opposed attempts by so-called "German Christians" to seize control of Protestant churches. Niemoller responded to the following policy, the "Aryan paragraph":
"Anyone who is not of Aryan descent or who is married to a person of non-Aryan descent may not be appointed as a pastor or official. Pastors or officials of Aryan descent who marry non-Aryans are to be dismissed. The only exceoptions are those laid down in the state law."

Regarding Niemoller's response, Carroll and Shiflett say,
" Niemoller bolted into action, inviting fellow pastors throughout Germany to join a Pastors' Emergency League to resist the Aryan paragraph and all other attacks on church doctrine. Within a few months, more than two thousand pastors had signed the pledge -- and that was still before one of the most revealing spectacles of the first year of Nazi rule."

There is much more, but the point of the chapter is that there was much more oppostion to the Nazis from the church than is commonly believed today. I hope you can find time to research this issue further. Again, I recommend "Christianity on Trial" for a good starting point.

"Christianity on Trial" is a beautiful book, confronting many historical myths people believe so easily about Christianity.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 09:38 PM | Comments (0)

Recent controversy over Little Green

Recent controversy over Little Green Footballs prompts me to comment. I've read the MSNBC piece and several bloggers' comments on it, as well as Opinion Journal's Best of the Web Today article on it. My take on it is that calling something "hate" when someone is telling the honest truth is a typical PC way of shutting off debate. "racist", "homophobe", "insensitive jerk" are all labels used by those motivated by political correctness and unwilling to argue positions based on their merits. For those who dislike Little Green Footballs, why do you consider it hate? You have a right to your opinions of course, but think a little deeper here, instead of just labeling someone you disagree with.

Many people of the "religious left" think we should be more tolerant of Islam and the Arab world. We should try to understand why they hate us, they say. Oops, there's that word "hate" again! You mean, they "hate" too? Say, why is the left so accomodating? You'd think they would label the speeches coming out of Arab world, quoted by MEMRI, as hate speech too. But they never do, of course. Seems we are to be tolerant of anyone but honest, truth-telling Americans.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 09:24 PM | Comments (0)

October 19, 2002

I've been reading over the

I've been reading over the comments, regarding Islam and violence, over at Joshua Claybourn's site. Some good comments there. One from Lee Anne Millinger says that such things happen when religions gain worldly power. I agree with her with the cases of Rome and Geneva, but not Nazi Germany, which had about as much to do with Christianity as Timothy McVeigh. Modern-day unbelievers point to the Nazis as evidence of Christian anti-Semitism, but it just isn't so. Vincent Carroll and Dave Shiflett debunk that modern myth in their fine book, "Christianity on Trial".

Another commenter, (I cannot find it again so sorry for no credit!), claims that terrorism is different than normal run-of-the-mill violence in that it intentionally targets innocents. That's a good point. Based on what I read in Unveiling Islam, by Ergun Mehmet Caner and Emir Fethi Caner, Mohammed and followers resorted to violence against caravans on trade routes in order to obtain provisions for their growing movement. A man at my church tells me that Mohammed only resorted to violence when he thought his movement would be eliminated. Is this terrorism or routine violence? God will judge.

Joshua Claybourn states that most Muslims are not violent, but most nations are. He's got a point there, as the rhetoric coming out of the Middle East (view some of it over at MEMRI) is pretty hateful stuff. I'd add that even if a minority are violent, that cannot be ignored. Most Americans are non-violent too, but that doesn't mean we can ignore law enforcement and punishing criminals.

Finally, another comment whose source I cannot find, says we are still obligated to respond with love toward our enemies. While true, I believe that obligation is put upon us as individual people of faith. That obligation does not mean that we, as a collective nation, should lay down our arms and pretend that our differences can be overcome by diplomacy if our opponents do not act in good faith. I believe that there are differences in God's expectations of us as individuals and as nations.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 05:18 PM | Comments (0)

October 18, 2002

Here's a commentary in UU

Here's a commentary in UU World, about vengeance and peace. Let's examine this response from an organization of the "Religious Left" on the American response to 9/11 and future actions with respect to Iraq.

First off, a little background. The Rev. Dr. Rebecca Ann Parker is professor of theology and president of Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, California, and co-author with Rita Nakashima Brock of Proverbs of Ashes: Violence, Redemptive Suffering, and the Search for What Saves Us (Beacon Press, 2001). Here is an excerpt of a book review from an earlier issue of UU World. Christianity is blamed in this book for domestic violence. In the article discussed further here, Christianity and Western Civilization are blamed for world violence.

I'm going to single out a couple of statements that The Rev. Parker makes. Quotes from her article are in italics.

In Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Terrorism, Mark Juergensmeyer studies religious terrorists, whom he finds in every major religious tradition. What religious terrorists have in common is a view of the world as a site of cosmic struggle in which the forces of evil threaten the forces of good. Their theology evolves in a context of injury or threat. Holy warriors experience themselves as victims of an enemy's unjustified aggression and violence. Having been humiliated, they are fighting back to restore honor for their people and pay back injustices. They believe their own deaths will bring glory to their families, will be honored among their people, and will be pleasing to God. Acts of religious terrorism may not defeat the enemy; they may not even have a military or political objective. Their meaning is religious: an act of faithful defiance of evil to declare one's devotion to God.

The religious terrorists who flew planes into the World Trade Center operated with this kind of theology. The United States has been traumatized and families around the world are grieving because of people who believed that God desires the humiliation and destruction of enemies. We have been directly hit by the theology that says God saves through violence.

So Christianity and Islam are just the same when it comes to violence? And we Christians are responsible for perpetuating it just because we want to defend our country? I know the old objections to the Crusades. I also know, after doing some research, that the Crusades were a defensive response to Muslim aggression. I acknowledge that people went too far in retaliation, but I'm not convinced those actions were undertaken by true Christians. Sure, I know, you say today's actions are not done by true Muslims, either, but consider the founders of these two faiths. How many people did Jesus kill? Mohammed? Jesus performed miraculous works of healing and compassion. Mohammed? Suppose you're a sheep, and there are two shepherds calling you home. One has blood on his hands, as for the other one - he came looking for you when you fell into that ravine and couldn't get out. Who do you trust?

Such theology is not the purview of religious extremists alone. The idea that God saves through violence has been a core doctrine of Western Christianity for the past thousand years. At the end of the eleventh century Anselm of Canterbury formulated the theological idea that Jesus died on the cross to pay back God for the injury to God's honor caused by human sin. His theology, written to defend Christianity from Muslims and Jews, provided explicit justification for Christian holy war. The first crusade, called in 1095 by Pope Urban II, urged holy warriors to sacrifice their lives just as Jesus gave his on the cross. The Pope promised that their noble deaths would merit the forgiveness of debts and garner rewards to the slain soldiers' families. Inspired by a theology of sacrificial violence that justified the destruction of God's enemies as a holy act, Christian knights began murdering Jews in the Rhineland and Muslims in the East. From 1095 forward, Anthony Bartlett writes, "the holocaust became a possibility on European soil."

These words, Romans 5:5-11 ESV, written by The Apostle Paul, were written about 1000 years before Anselm of Canterbury:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

It is rather incredible to claim that the doctrine of the Atonement, clearly stated here in a first century writing, is an eleventh century invention. The rest of the paragraph is just as incredible.

Alfred North Whitehead observed that there are times when violence is a last resort in personal or national defense. But the most violence can do is stop something. It can stop a violent aggressor. But violence can never create. It can never console. It can never bring peace into being. It can never repair what has been lost.

What is wrong, I wonder, with stopping a violent aggressor? Look at the situation in Maryland. I would love it if someone stopped this person with an act of violence. I wouldn't even mind if the sniper-slayer was not a policeman. Regarding the "inability to create", I question that. What ended slavery - creating freedom for Black Americans? Our Civil War. What stopped the Holocaust? World War II. What created the United States of America, starting what I consider to be the greatest experiment in human law: respecting the rights of man in a climate of liberty and economic freedom? Our Revolutionary War.

It is rather short-sighted to claim that violence cannot create, console, or bring peace into being.

In this time of war, when violence is a rising tide, our calling is to love. Our calling is to witness to a deeper wisdom regarding how security can be created, and how the anguishing aftermath of human violence can be healed. We must speak as public theologians and religious critics who address the theology of war and offer an alternative.

Such speaking will not suffice if we are merely idealistic, innocent as doves. Love is more than idealism. It is wisdom. And we need to speak as wise serpents who know the human capacity for atrocities, cruelties, stupidities, idolatries, and short-sighted, self-serving strategies. We cannot flinch in the presence of evil, but must press further with penetrating questions. Here are a few we should be asking:

What is the toll of civilian casualties in Afghanistan and why is this information so hard to find?

Where is the moral voice of protest? What would it take for Unitarian Universalists collectively to be such a voice?

How many people who look Middle Eastern have been detained in the U.S. by the police and are still in custody without being charged with a crime? What would it take for us to come to their defense?

Which non-violent movements for justice and equity in human affairs will become targets for infiltration and suppression sanctioned by the Homeland Securities act?

Who will benefit economically and politically from the present popular confidence in the necessity of war?

What would it take for us to remember the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s growing clarity about the relationship between war, racism, and poverty? What would it take for us to be clear advocates against racism and poverty in our present context?

It is interesting that in this list of questions confronting evil, there are none questioning the actions of terrorists on 9/11. Is there any consideration of how to respond to the events of that day? Are they to just be ignored?

I do not believe in war for war's sake, and if war comes there should be a criteria for waging it justly. This criteria must consider the right of people to defend themselves from aggression and ensure their own survival. I believe President Bush has done a good job of laying out such a case. I do not agree with the position taken by the Unitarian Universalist Association and many mainline Christian denominations opposing military action.

The Institute for Religion and Democracy has produced a useful essay containing points to consider when formulating one's own opinion about our response to Iraq.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 09:17 PM | Comments (0)

Joshua Claybourn offers a post

Joshua Claybourn offers a post discussing this article by George Neumayr. This leads to discuss this with other bloggers. Is anyone concerned about how their writing will be perceived by people they personally know? One concern of mine, and this may be unique to me due to my blog's name, is that my site may be "confrontational" with people in my church. I'm a United Methodist, and they are more socially active, and liberal, than many other denominations. My pastor took offense at the remarks by Jerry Falwell, (he didn't say this in church, it was at MNF fellowship - yes we do that!) I didn't confront his statement, as he was talking to someone else, but I did think; Mohammed was a violent man, we all know that, so why not call a spade a spade, and admit the truth: he committed acts of terrorism, hence, he was a terrorist. I guess one should avoid judging a living person, pending repentance, but Mohammed's opportunity for repentance is long gone. I've read a lot about Islam since 9/11, and I've come to have doubts about its peaceful nature. I think Falwell was right. So what happens if my pastor reads this blog and disagrees? Will my blog be a source of contention between us?

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 08:29 PM | Comments (0)

Pastor Hall comments on my

Pastor Hall comments on my previous post. I respect his intentions on getting in too deep on the punditry, and I'm going to give him the last word for now and move on to other issues. Economic issues will come up on this blog from time to time, so there will be new opportunities to discuss this further. In closing, I thank Pastor Hall for responding fairly and with grace. I hope I have done likewise.

Mark Byron has comments on this subject as well. Thank you, Mark.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 08:14 PM | Comments (0)

October 16, 2002

Here's a good response from

Here's a good response from a Christian missionary on a Christian response to globalization. Globalization and the Christian’s Response
, an interview with Father Piero Gheddo.

As a free-market advocate, I believe that capitalism is the economic system most able to provide for the well-being of humanity. I do recognize that there are people left out, however. As a Christian, I believe we must do something to account for this. I believe this responsibility lies mainly with the individual, and only to a limited extent with the government.

Here's how Father Gheddo puts it, much better:

Gheddo: If, on the one hand, we must speak of solidarity, of establishing rules to help those worse off than we are, then, on the other hand, we cannot ignore the two values of responsibility and liberty. To think, as happens more frequently, “I pay my taxes, so the state can do it,” is a tremendous mistake. It is not the state that must deal with our neighbors; we all must do it. There is one thing I never tire of repeating in public meetings everywhere in Italy: We ourselves must carry the burden for our brothers who are ill. We ourselves as persons and individuals must feel the responsibility over and above the United Nations, the government, and the multinationals. It is very true that all this runs counter to human egoism.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 11:47 PM | Comments (0)

Back. Now let me comment

Back. Now let me comment respectfully on Pastor Hall's post linked to in the previous entry.

Richard Hall states,
"In the first place, most of those who protest against globalisation and the activities of the multinational corporations do so entirely peacefully."

If "most of" is defined as "most of the people at the protests" he is undoubtably correct. I'm not sure that is the proper way to count however. I'm sure that most Muslims are peacable, non-violent people as well, but those who are non-violent are not a problem. Those who are violent are, and they cannot be ignored. If you look at the organizations which organize the anti-globalization protests, and listen to what they say, there is an encouragement in what they say and do to disrupt, to get results, to not be ignored, to even, in the words of one protest alert in Washington, "shut this city down". Most people attending these protests probably aren't aware of all the rhetoric that is bandied around in social justice circles, but the people who are defining the movement are calling for change, and change any way they can get it. Here's an example by Ted Rall, who wonders if anything good can come without violence. A guest comment by Peter Wood, associate provost, Boston University, in National Review likens the movement's participants to a person riding a tiger and thinking he can control where it goes and what it eats.

In a comment to his column, Richard Hall asks me if the metaphor of the tiger should not also be applied to multinationals. My reply is a qualified-yes. The issue is accountability. Activists want corporations to be accountable. The question is accountable to whom? We already have laws which define what corporations may or may not do. The problem is that activists want corporations to be accountable to their agenda, without having to put their agenda into law. If Congress passes new laws, for good or ill, our corporations must act within those laws. NGOs should be expected to do the same.

Richard Hall states,

"Second, they do so, not because they hate prosperity, but because they hate injustice."
I hate injustice too. In fact, I've never met a person who loved injustice. The problem is, just as young Padme noted in a similar conversation with Anakin Skywalker, "people just don't agree!" Some people think it is unjust that some people earn more than others. Some think it is unjust that people earn more than they deserve. Those definitions of what is unjust are not reconcilable, and they are the basic difference between socialism and capitalism, along with some additional details, such as how much government interference we will tolerate in our lives. For if justice is to be strictly defined and enforced by the hand of government, it will indeed mean less liberty.

Last thing I'll comment on now. Richard Hall states

"Practices which are illegal in the "developed nations" should not be undertaken by our companies in the "undeveloped"."

I'll disagree on this on the grounds that people who live in different countries get to make different laws for themselves. Economic conditions are different around the world. Take the issue of child labor, for instance. We don't practice it here in America. One reason is that it's illegal, but why is it illegal? It's unnecessary. We are a developed nation where you can go down to the store and buy tonight's dinner. Could we have had anti-child-labor laws back in 1800 when our country was pretty much an agrarian system? Not if you were a farmer who wanted to feed your family, especially not if you wanted to feed the people living in cities who depended on farmers for food. My dad grew up on a farm in Kansas, and during harvest time, everyone who could walk and reach the pedals on the combines or trucks worked. So, you say we make an exemption for such special needs, say a family farm? Fine, but how do you define how far to go with your exemptions? Once government starts legislating special cases it doesn't seem to stop. Also, why not accept the fact that people who live in developing nations may need to make their own exemptions, for their own economic needs (such as agriculture), too? The problem is that the anti-globalization crowd isn't very tolerant of such talk. They want justice to implemented in firm labor conditions, with government bureaucracies and regulations. Not much chance of tailoring economic practices to local realities here.

Also: Some laws are intentionally written to make something illegal in one country which is legal in another. The Kyoto Protocol is a strong example.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 11:25 PM | Comments (0)

Looking through my stats, I've

Looking through my stats, I've noticed a dissenting opinion over at connexions to my previous entry on the issue of globalization.

Let me address one issue before saying anything else on this blog: I'll even move it over to the left to make it explicitly clear. Richard Hall states

"But never pretend that the motivations of global capitalism have anything to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ."
It is not the intent of this blog to state the definitive Christian position on any political or economic issue. I acknowledge that Christians disagree on many things. This issue is one of those things.

The creed I profess is The Apostle's Creed. My alternative "simple" creed states simply

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your heart. You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:37,39).
To that simple statement of the Law and the Prophets, I only add
"all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father".(John 5:23)
"This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent."(John 6:29).
My preacher put them all together in a childrens' sermon and said,
"Love God, love your neighbor, loving Jesus is loving God".

I'll discuss the other points in the dissent later. Have to take care of some other business first.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 07:27 PM | Comments (0)

October 14, 2002

Jeffrey Collins has comments about

Jeffrey Collins has comments about the "Democratic" party and integrity.

No, it was the "Democratic" Party that made sure that all he was only criticized and not ejected from the Senate. It was also the "Democratic" Party that supported him fully until they figured out he was going to lose. Further, it was the "Democratic" Party that got the New Jersey Supremes to create new election law out of whole cloth. That is what has an effect on voting for you.

Back in my Unitarian days, I argued that if the Democrats had simply admitted that President Clinton was guilty of sexual harassment and cooperated with the impeachment, Al Gore would have had a much better odds in his Presidential race. He would have been President by Constitutional law alone for about two years, and then have a good run for President without the scandal baggage to hold him down. He would actually have been able to run as an incumbent. Though on the other hand, maybe the public would have seen what we would have for four more years.... Who knows?

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 11:40 PM | Comments (0)

One reason I'm skeptical about

One reason I'm skeptical about the need for UN permission to strike Iraq: aren't they the same organization which was in charge when a whole city in Bosnia, Srebenica, was massacred? Even though a military strike is a completely different issue than a peacekeeping mission, does anyone seriously think the UN can guarantee world peace?

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 11:21 PM | Comments (0)

Joshua Claybourn has an excellent

Joshua Claybourn has an excellent post on the Religious Right. I can add nothing except a hearty "Amen!"

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 11:12 PM | Comments (0)

Just in case anyone is

Just in case anyone is wondering... This is not me.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 11:05 PM | Comments (0)

October 13, 2002

Arggh.... For anyone out there

Arggh.... For anyone out there taking an interest in this blog, sorry for not posting for a few days. Kindof busy at work, and spending less time reading, which is good in that I'm being more responsible, really. I usually try to make a quick read of my favorite blogs first thing in the morning while I'm settling in, then another go during lunch (if I brown bag it), or at the end of the day right before I leave the office. I usually write about something that catches my eye, or some issue that is hot on my mind. Last week saw me not being able to do any of that, and the couple of times I could have written, I just absolutely could not think of anything to say that hadn't already been said much better by others.

That being said, let me comment on a post I wrote, perhaps too hastily, last week. In fact it is the previous post. I'm wondering if I should have compared the protestors in Seattle to the German thugs (Nazis) who are responsible for KristallNacht. Now one way to lose an argument immediately, at least most of the time, is to accuse your opponent, or like-minded people, of being fascists or Nazis (another way is to still claim, even after multiple recounts, that Al Gore won). Now I pretty much made that claim. I should defend that statement, or risk labeling myself a loser.

First off, let me say that I don't really care for the government intervention implied in what the WTO stands for either. The WTO, in its usurping of national sovereignties, has the potential for a lot of mischief, including political manipulation of economic markets. I don't think that's such a good idea. The WTO protestors aren't protesting for this reason however. They are protesting because they think that capitalism is bad, and they aren't really happy when people are allowed to be free to prosper. Consider the issue of labor and low wages. Is it really true that American companies only go overseas to take advantage of cheap labor? And if so, are the workers better off, or worse off, for it? I don't have actual numbers available (I'm writing off the top of my head really, based on reading I've done from Reason magazine, the Foundation for Economic Education, and the Competive Enterprise Institute), but let me try to answer them rationally. We can look up the numbers later when more time is available.

Do companies go overseas to save money on labor? I'd say they do. They want to be more efficient and save money. That's not really a bad thing. I know it's not pleasant to have many Americans out of work, I don't want to deny that. But if companies deny basic economic realities in running their business, bad things will happen in the long run, including being priced out of world markets and stagnant investment opportunities for investors. Now the impression I get from most anti-free-trade activists is that government control of our economy can handle competition from foreign markets, and as far as investment opportunities, well they only help the rich. That phrase, "the rich", always bothers me when I hear someone use it as an argument for economic policy. "The tax cut is a give-away to the rich" was how I remember Al Gore saying it in the debates. Well, does he think we should all be the same? Really, now, if you don't like rich people, and you think the government ought to do something about it, aren't you arguing in effect for a socialist government that limits how prosperous people can be?

The second question: Are foreign workers better off for American companies having an overseas presence? I'd say they definitely are. The poorest people in foreign countries are those who are not working at all. This isn't to say that any wage is fair, but I do think that most Americans are not qualified to be judges of economic fairness, not even in our own economy. Planned economies are made of such ideas, and they don't work. If American companies were to close up shop and leave their foreign facilities, their workers would be a lot worse off for it. I saw a cartoon in Reason magazine once, showing a starving child begging for food, while an activist said to him "Don't worry kid, help is on the way! We're gonna close down that sweatshop real soon!" They think poverty is caused by people who are working for low wages, when the truth is that the people are poor because most of them are not working at all.

Well, I rambled enough. Now to the point: The protestors hate capitalism because they can't stand to see prosperity, and some are willing to commit acts of violence in order to fight it, forcing their way, economic totalitarianism, on others. The Nazis, being National Socialists, had similar motivation. When National Socialism failed to provide for the economic needs of its citizens, their political leaders looked for scapegoats, and they turned on the Jews. The perception was fed that the Jews controlled the money (I don't know how prosperous the Jews really were, but the rumours were there, and apparently believed, just as similar sentiments are expressed in the Arab world today).

I'm going to commit to a discipline of writing on this blog at least four times a week, not necessarily every day, as I have to reserve time for other commitments, and I do not do any writing from work. If I can't write four times in any future week, I'll call in sick or claim vacation time.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 06:07 PM | Comments (0)

October 09, 2002

Ron Rosenbaum writes today about

Ron Rosenbaum writes today about attending anti-war demonstration in Central Park and walking away disillusioned, saying "Goodbye to all that". It's good to see someone with eyes open. I had a similar experience when the WTO met in Seattle and protestors caused so much mayhem up there. I was not there, but I put up with hearing a lot about it, not just from the Wall Street Journal, which I read, but also from people at the church I attended back then. They thought the protestors were actually doing a good thing . I read ads on the internet and in the UUA magazine, UU World (please don't confuse with the Christian magazine World!), where UU churches in Washington State were sponsoring protestors, providing them with food, lodging, meeting facilities. I wouldn't be surprised if they even provided them with ready-made signs.

My response? Those poor, misguided idiots! How dare they think they can improve the lot of people around the world by breaking Starbucks' windows! And how will people around the world ever be prosperous if they can't enjoy the benefits of economic freedom as we've done here in America? Some on the left think we need to develop more third-world corporations, and I say to them - fine! But you won't get there with government bureaucracies dictating the terms of how it's gotta look. It'll happen in a climate of economic freedom or it won't happen at all. The protestors who were going around breaking windows actually reminded me of the Germans who were incited to break the windows of the Jewish synagogues back then on KristallNacht, deluded people who got caught up in a hate and envy-filled act of violence and destruction.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 07:59 PM | Comments (0)

Yesterday, I cited the work

Yesterday, I cited the work of Robert P. George, a director of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, as well as being the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University. He also writes for Toward Tradition.

Here are two fine examples of his work:

An interview with Kathryn Jean Lopez, from NRO on the subject of just war.

A response regarding the issue of ecumenism, to a speech given by Dr. Tom Oden, of IRD, "The New Ecumenism" (the last three paragraphs are great!)

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 07:49 AM | Comments (0)

October 08, 2002

Joshua Claybourn has an excellent

Joshua Claybourn has an excellent post on politically active Christians. Nice work! I'm going to expand on it a little bit, reflecting on my past experiences as a member of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

God does not belong to your party: I agree that it is presumptuous to say that God is on our side in a public debate on issues, especially one in a secular context where no one is expected to unconditionally accept Biblical authority. I really respect writers like Robert P. George, who writes in support of traditional values, but without resorting to saying "this is true because the Bible says so". He lays out a good case based on respect for life and reason. Regarding motivation, I think we err if we think that we are doing God a favor by our activism, as if His will would be thwarted if we stopped. No, any political activism we do is for the benefit of our society. God could change our world with a word if He wished. That said, however, I believe we should study and know the will of God, so that we can be sure that we are on His side.

The ends do not justify the means: I remember a couple of years ago, President Clinton and Vice President Gore appeared at a fund-raiser which raised a huge sum of money. While it was a legal fund-raiser, they also took the opportunity to speak out for campaign finance reform (at the fund raiser!). Several donors were said to have questioned the hypocrisy of raising gobs of cash while speaking out against the freedom to do so. Clinton's reply was that it was justified by fighting the Republicans' agenda. He mentioned several Democrat-party objectives: gun control, abortion, his public land grabs. It probably never occurred to him that in a free and democratic republic his political opponents have just as much right to speak out for their views, and raise money for that purpose. If he could have been declared king for life by our Supreme Court, I'm sure he would have been willing to put our Constitution in the shredder to do so.

Faith does not lie in support: To this, I also add that faith does not perform acts of violence, against life or property. People who resort to acts of violence to make a point don't have one.

Generosity does not mean compassion: I could write for hours on this subject, but let me add this one quick point before I have to leave for dinner: Government cannot be compassionate because it has no resources with which to be so. Whatever the government gives to anyone must be taken away from someone else, with some taken away to the bureaucrats who manage our system. Bill Bradley was wrong when he said we needed a more compassionate government; it just isn't so! True compassion is provided by people who give of their own time and money, not those who wish to utilize the services of someone else's wallet.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 08:04 PM | Comments (0)

October 04, 2002

Too little time it seems

Too little time it seems to post since Wednesday, which leads me to ask - how much time do people spend on their blogs? How do you reconcile time with your family? Rod Dreher noted in The Corner, in a discussion about television, noted that computers also take time away from the family. Amy and I decided in advance that I have to observe a bedtime discipline, and I broke it Wednesday (my bad - is it possible to keep a half-baked idea on this system for publishing later?)

Today had me at the doctor's office, getting a rigourous physical, as Amy and I are in the process of adopting a baby from China. Looking at becoming first-time parents sometime between Mother's and Father's Day 2004.

Considering my post from Wednesday about the UUA, I'd like to add a disclaimer - not all congregations of the UUA are teeming with socialists, and there are some scattered conservatives spread throughout. They've even formed a Conservative Forum, but like me, many of them have just chosen to walk away. For a denomination that seems to worship tolerance, they do seem to be rather intolerant of Christians and conservatives. I think of the Unitarian Universalist Association today as a kind of ABC faith, meaning "Anything But Christianity". Many of them mean well, but as Mark Byron notes on his site,

There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. - Proverbs 16:25
I ran into one of my former UU colleagues at lunch about two weeks ago, we were talking about Iraq, and he said there were one or two members who thought we should fight, but he also thought it was all about oil. He also kept bringing up this word "myth". I looked up the website for the congregation, and sure enough, the new preacher there has this "myth" fixation. All our institutions are based on "myths". Now he's using the definition of the word that is truth-neutral, (at least I think so), but he talks about America and Western Civilization in terms of "Judeo-Christian myth" and the myth of ... well let me just provide a quote (link)
My last observation is that this tragedy we face is a reflection of a much larger mythic battle. Myth is a view of reality. It is our answers to life's compelling questions about the mystery of our existence. Myth is the filter through which we push our experience to create meaning. Every individual, every institution, every nation lives through and by myth. That is, all humans and the cultures they create are shaped by peculiar views of reality.

History is nothing more than the interpretations we give to the conflicts or consorts of myth. Every human contention and aggression is myth-driven.

This sermon sounds like standard "citizen-of-the-world" moral equivalency, combined with a post-modern denial of truth. One thing I'd like to tell people who think we're no better than our enemies "Are you willing to bet your freedom of religion on the outcome of your beliefs? Because if we are not prepared to defend our country and its Constitution, we may very well lose it, and we may lose it from the very people you are telling us to be tolerant of."

ding..... time's up. Good night.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 10:59 PM | Comments (0)

October 02, 2002

One of the things that

One of the things that has been really disappointing to see during the last four years is the way groups such as the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), and Planned Parenthood, have hammered this idea into the zeitgeist that abortion is a Constitutional right, and subsequently, since many Republicans want to limit this so-called "right", they are enemies of the republic. I was appalled at the level of the rhetoric in the 2000 Presidential elections (has Alec Baldwin sold his house yet?). I was a Unitarian Universalist back at that time, soon to leave (I kept my promise, Alec :) due to the shrillness of the "gotta save Roe vs. Wade!" and "ban those handguns" folks that were so prevalent in that denomination (one of my reasons for leaving is that it just wasn't any fun anymore! I just happen to not like protesting everything, and I'd rather watch football than attend meetings of the Social Justice committee)

The first book I read in my conversion from being a UU to being a "man of the right" was Ayn Rand's "We The Living" about life under the Bolsheviks. This book really impacted me. For the first time, I actually thought about what it would look like to live under Communism, by which I mean life lived each and every day. This book is truly scary. I've heard people tell me about Orwell's "1984" how it scared the living daylights out of them, but to me "1984" was a tenth of the impact of "We The Living". Let me note before continuing that while the book is fictional, it is considered to be a semi-autobiographical account of Rand's youth lived in the Soviet Union in the 1920's- the main difference being that Ayn Rand made it out alive. One thing Rand emphasizes in the book is the political activism of the Communist Party, always wanting to change this, change that, in order to make a better society, always striving towards utopia. Now, to my point: the Unitarian Universalist Association and other leftist political activist groups behave in similar fashion, and have similar goals.

Take a look at this. This is a Study Action Issue from this last year's General Assembly. Rhetoric like this could be cut and paste out of an issue of The Nation without using scissors. Now I was a Unitarian Universalist back when this SAI was being formulated and protestors were smashing windows in Seattle at the WTO meeting back in 1999. Now you can be opposed to the WTO and still be a free-market capitalist (and in fact I consider myself to be more in that camp than in the WTO-is-always-right camp), but the discussion in UU publications and conversations back then was how:

sometimes violence is justified, after all it's only property,
capitalism is such an unjust economic system, we should be giving them more foreign aid instead
if all those countries practiced capitalism the global environment would be destroyed.

Getting back to Ayn Rand's "We The Living": One quote from the book had a lingering impact on me, let me see if I can find it.....ok, here it is (oh man, look at the time, gotta wrap this up). Kira Argounova (the heroine) is talking to Andrei Taganov, young Communist party member. I pick up the conversation with Andrei:

"I know what you're going to say, You're going to say, as so many of our enemies do, that you admire our ideals, but loathe our methods."
"I loathe your ideals."
"For one reason, mainly, chiefly and eternally, no matter how much your Party promises to accomplish, no matter what paradise it plans to bring mankind. Whatever your other claims may be, there's one you can't avoid, one that will turn your paradise into the most unspeakable hell: your claim that man must live for the state."

Kira's attitude describes pretty much how I feel about utopian schemes and political activism. Now that I'm a Christian again, I reject Ayn Rand's atheism, but I still respect her philosophy for standing up to the myth that if we (meaning all humans, without God) all work together we can achieve anything. Humanism and socialism are dead and worthless philosophies, and I've been there and experienced them. There is no life there.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 11:26 PM | Comments (0)

Disappointing decision today from the

Disappointing decision today from the SCONJ, really disappointing. Is this the start of a series of unwritten amendments to campaign laws throughout the land that say "provisions of this law are void if they are disadvantageous to the Democrat party"? How about this possibility for future elections - Democrats flood their campaign with illegal donations, just barely illegal at first, and use the courts to justify them, or stonewall the courts until elections are over, and use Clintonian logic to justify them. Then next year, a little bit more illegal (raise the temperature of the cooking pot with the frog in it), and so on year after year. Of course Republicans will be held to the strictest standards of accountability, and will even in fact be accused of breaking the intent of the campaign finance laws with legal donations (just as they've been accused of "buying" their elections for several years now). Of course, it will be justified by saying "We can't let the Republicans win the Senate, the Presidency, whatever....."; I can just picture Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton making her appeals for money now.

Interesting point I read over on Instapundit earlier: If McCain-Feingold / Shays-Meehan were in effect now, advertising naming Lautenberg would be in blacked-out now. New Jersey Dems could have appointed anyone without any chance of questioning their record.

How about these scenarios?
1) Lautenberg is elected, and resigns the next day; Governor McGreevey appoints Torricelli to be Senator for a two-year special term similar to Carnahan's in Missouri. (I'd vote for his impeachment afterwards)
2) Lautenberg is elected, resigns, and Governor McGreevey appoints himself to the Senate
Could these actually be possible? Of course, both cases imply no integrity in the Democrat party, but then that's what they have now isn't it?
3) Voters vote with integrity and elect Forrester to the U.S. Senate, and send a strong rebuke to this rigged system.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 10:16 PM | Comments (0)

Over in the United Methodist

Over in the United Methodist Church, a recent controversy has been spawned as a result of a speech by Bishop Joseph Sprague.

Bishop Sprague says in his address, "The theological myth of the virgin birth points to this wondrous mystery and ultimate truth. To treat this myth as a historic fact is to do an injustice to its intended purpose and to run the risk of idolatry itself."

Now if literal belief in the historical truth virgin birth is idolatry (and I assume from the rest of his speech that he would believe the same about every other aspect of the Apostle's Creed), what can the righteous do? This type of belief is a belief in ever shifting sand, subject to the whims of public opinion, changing social mores, and political correctness. Besides, wouldn't belief in anything constitute idolatry? Should we worship nothing? Is nothing sacred?

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 06:58 PM | Comments (0)

Good piece by Michael Novak

Good piece by Michael Novak in National Review Online, Democracy & Religion in America

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 06:50 PM | Comments (0)

October 01, 2002

What's liberal religion all about?

I'll be talking more about liberal religion, but first a brief note about religion and politics. It seems to me that when any religious institution loses its spiritual focus, something has to move in to fill the void. In mainline denominations, political activism often replaces evangelism as the main focus. Now activism isn't wrong, in and of itself, but neglecting evangelism is. We are commanded to be witnesses, as well as to do good works.

So many of today's denominations have lost their spiritual focus, and hence their evangelistic drive, because there is nothing spiritual left to talk about anymore.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 08:06 PM | Comments (0)