Monday, October 30, 2006

Matt 24 Watch, 6: the Back to Jerusalem Chinese House Church Missionary Movement

The persecuted Chinese house church movement has courageously formed a visionary missionary movement, on the theme of Back to Jerusalem: i.e. following the classical Silk Road trade route through the 10/40 Window countries and anti-gospel strongholds, back to Jerusalem, witnessing to the gospel and planting churches all the way:

The Back to Jerusalem vision is something that thousands of Chinese Christians are willing to die for. Why? . . . .

Back to Jerusalem is not some kind of end times theory . . . BTJ refers to a call from God for the Chinese Church to preach the Gospel and establish fellowships of believers in all the countries, cities, towns, and ethnic groups between China and Jerusalem. This vision is no small task, for within those nations lay the three largest spiritual strongholds in the world today that have yet to be conquered by the Gospel: the giants of Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism.

More than 90% of the unreached people groups in the world today are located within the 10/40 window – more than 5,100 tribes and ethno-linguistic groups with little or no Gospel witness.

Of the world’s 50 least-Christian and least-evangelized countries, all 50 are located within this region! . . . .

Right now there are already hundreds of Chinese missionaries working outside China in the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, and Southeast Asia. Thousands more are in training, learning languages such as Arabic and English that will be put to use on the mission field.

A team of thirty-six Chinese missionaries departed China in March 2000 for a neighboring Buddhist country. They were the first contemporary team of Back to Jerusalem missionaries, the first-fruits of a great flood to come. Few people around the world knew of this event, but their going was the result of years of prayer and planning. On that day China once again became an active participant in worldwide mission . . . .

Despite tremendous opposition, all 36 of these house church missionaries had faithfully preached the Gospel throughout China for years, establishing churches and seeing more of God’s power manifested through their ministries each month than most Christians see during their lifetimes.

As the Back to Jerusalem vision unfolds, you may start to hear reports of Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists coming to Christ in places where the Gospel has long struggled to make an impact. When this happens, don’t be amazed at the Chinese Christians, we are just sinners saved by grace and undeserving of any attention. Rather, be amazed at the wisdom and manifest beauty of God’s plan. “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” 1 Corinthians 1:25

We hope you will be encouraged and challenged by the Back to Jerusalem vision, and moved to prayer and involvement in the fulfillment of the Great Commission in these last days, until “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.” Revelation 11:15.

What a challenge to us, as the oh-so-at-ease-in-Zion Christians of the Caribbean!

But, here is the shocker, for as Christianity Today reports:

The Back to Jerusalem movement began in the 1920s, went underground for decades, and now hopes to send 100,000 missionaries to 51 nations. Critics who perceive missionary efforts as rooted in Western imperialism will find their assumptions defied by this movement of Chinese Christians who want to reclaim Christianity's ancient missionary roots . . . .

When the Chinese say "Back to Jerusalem," they're talking first of all about a geographical advance of the gospel throughout history. The gospel started in Jerusalem and then spread in a generally westward direction into North Africa and Europe. Throughout history it has continued to spread westward around the globe, with China as its farthest advance. With a Chinese mindset, they see that to fulfill the Great Commission is to encircle the whole globe with the gospel, until it goes back even to where it began. Their aim is not Jerusalem or Israel, but all the countries and unreached people groups between China and Jerusalem. Along the old Silk Road, which once brought trade from the Middle East to China, you find approximately 5,200 unreached people groups and tribes . . . .

[T]he kind of Christianity that God has instilled in Chinese believers allows them to impact the Islamic and Hindu and Buddhist worlds in a way that most other Christians cannot.

I'm sure all your readers are aware of the persecution that has affected Chinese churches. There are hundreds of pastors in prison today. Yet they don't see it only as a satanic attack when they are tortured and put into prison. They see it as God's training ground, and God's furnace of affliction to purify them so they can be effective witnesses. The Chinese are in the position to send workers who have been though the furnace for so long that they're willing literally to die for the gospel . . .

In short, this vision has long been in place, and is by God's grace now blossoming after -- and indeed even through -- the decades of chaos and persecution triggered by the Communist Revolution in China. To illustrate, one topic of training is "how to witness for the Lord under any circumstance, and that means even if you're handcuffed and being led to the execution ground."

From the above, we can also see how powerful South-South [and South-North] Missionary initiatives are; as they pull the steam out of the often very polarising rhetoric that Missionary initiatives are part of Western Imperialism.

That raises the challenge of the George Liele Caribbean vision.

For in 1783, this Black American former slave came to the Caribbean as a refugee fleeing re-enslavement and planted the first successful black churches in Jamaica, out of which grew the powerful and nation-shaping Baptist movement. Not coincidentally, fifty-one years later, in material part because Christian slaves stood up for liberty, slavery was dead in the British Empire. And, five years after full-free in 1838, one hundred Jamaican Baptists went to West Africa with the gospel, helping plant the powerful belt of churches there that are a shining monument to their sacrifice. Indeed, for generations, missionaries from the Caribbean have served in Africa and elsewhere, so that in a recent Missiology article in Ghana, Isaac Kamta hailed Liele as "black prophet and father of the church in Africa and the Americas." [Journal of African Christian Thought, Vol. 5, # 2, Dec 2002. Akropong-Akuapem, Ghana: Akrofi-Christaller Memorial Centre for Mission Research and Applied Theology. Pp. 33 – 36.]

Now, in the Caribbean, we are by and large descended from the peoples of the 10/40 window, who came to the Caribbean, often in a context of the most wicked exploitation. But, in large part through the liberating, empowering, reconciling and healing force of the Gospel, we have become a free, cosmopolitan region with many vibrant Christians and powerfully established, richly endowed churches whose members are descended from the peoples all across the 10/40 window: from West Africans, to Jews and Arabs, to Indians, Chinese and Javanese, to even Japanese. As a region, our voice in world affairs far outweighs our numbers, and we have many well-received sports and cultural ambassadors, as well as two entire music genres that are welcomed around the world: reggae and its descendants, and calypso and its descendants.

Thus, we have plainly come to our estate for such a time as this. [Cf. Esther 4:14.]

Accordingly, I invite us to explore together:

1] The re-visioning of the Caribbean Church's Mandate

2] The creation of a mutually supportive, collaborative regional network of grassroots-level, community initiated Missionary Vision and Action Teams [MVATs]

3] Through these MVATs, tackling of innovative local and regional evangelism, discipleship and community reformation projects under the enduring mission of the church in the Caribbean

4] Preparation for sustained initiatives under the mission of the church from the Caribbean, in collaboration with the church across the world, and targetting especially the 10/40 Window but also the lands of the North that have now so sadly largely walked away from their rich gospel heritage

5] Under this, the formation and development of a network based initiative and Institute -- the George Liele Institute [for the obvious reason] is the best name I can come up with -- as an umbrella organisation for developing and carrying forward the vision. This should have a capacity-building focus, and thus a financial and technical project support arm, but also an emphasis on action-oriented research and the intellectual and practical engaging of critical issues, including apologetics and ethics. For instance, we must tackle the wave of apostasy and moral disintegration bearing down on the region from the North, and the Islamist agenda from the East too. [I note that once we successfully engage this pattern here, it equips us to face the same pattern overseas too!] Eventually it should be integrated with the emerging regional Christian University system.

6] I think that the widespread regional emergence of low-cost broadband Internet capacity, web site creation, blogging and podcasting technologies plus affordable teleconferencing technologies allows us to network a cluster of local micro-campus cybercentres that with local mentoring and community support can become nodes in the GLI system. Imagine a network of community centres hosted in churches, schools, cyber cafes etc, with clusters of say 8 - 15 or 20 PCs and able to host classes with local mentorship and courses delivered by leading Christians from across the region and beyond. Imagine online textbooks, like this in introductory philosophy, this in basic apologetics and this in discipleship and reformation, or this in first-stage follow-up for new converts or even this and this in evangelism [personal and meetings respectively], or this in small/cell group leadership [PDF!], or this in basic counselling, or this in Bible Study, or this in prayer; multiplied a thousandfold and available as well in print or thought CDs distributed at low cost.]

7] Over the next decade, through these and related developments, setting the target that we will not only carry out a steady, sustainable stream of initiatives in our region but will use them as a launch-pad and seed-plot for cooperative, sustained global initiatives under the church's Great Commission of evangelism discipleship and reformation.

Again, have we come to our estate for such a time as this? END

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Matt 24 Watch, 5: One reason why Civilians died in Lebanon

Following up on the "unbalanced and misleading world news" front, here is a telling explanation on one reason why many civilians died in S Lebanon during the recent conflict [HT: LGF].

Key excerpt:

. . . in the early 1980s, Syria, which then controlled Lebanon, reluctantly allowed a group of 500 Iranian Revolutionary Guards into the Lebanese city of Baalbek, providing the seed from which Hezbollah sprang forth . . . this terrorist organization began currying favor with the local population, providing many social services. Thus, when the popular Hezbollah secretly embarked upon activities with a more sinister purpose . . . the local population blindly accepted this activity without knowledge of what it involved.

The activity upon which Hezbollah had embarked was conversion of private homes into mini-military sites from where it could easily target Israel's civilian population . . . . Hezbollah construction teams had gone out and modified numerous Lebanese homes. Sometimes with, but most the time without, the homeowner's permission, workers began adding on a large, single-function room. These rooms were unique for, when completed, they lacked an essential element of all rooms -- a door. Each room was sealed shut -- but only, and immediately, after an object [which was literally kept under wraps] was placed inside . . . . When war erupted in southern Lebanon, designated leaders of Hezbollah combat teams received envelopes, each containing an address of one of the modified homes. The team quickly deployed to its assigned location, immediately breaking through an exterior wall of the sealed room. Each envelope contained aiming and firing instructions for the object prepositioned inside the room before it was sealed -- a surface-to-surface missile atop a launcher. After removing part of the room's roof to allow for unobstructed flight and on command, the team was to fire the missile, raining death and destruction down upon Israel's civilian population.

There was one major flaw in Hezbollah's home-conversion-to-missile-launch-site plan: Their construction activities had not gone unnoticed by Israeli intelligence . . . . [which identified] ahead of time the threat posed by Hezbollah's tactical use of private homes for military purposes -- a threat Israeli air power was then able to effectively negate. Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Dan Gillerman alluded two days into the conflict to these illegal Hezbollah tactics, a reference apparently lost on the media that failed to investigate further.

Hezbollah had designed a tactical plan calculated to maximize civilian casualties on both sides of battlefield -- by design on the Israeli side in targeting its major population centers and by consequence on the Lebanese side as Israel responded. While this tactic was, from the Israeli perspective, checkmated by virtue of good intelligence, from the Lebanese perspective, many civilians at these launch sites were forced to pay the ultimate price. Sadly, from Hezbollah's perspective, these civilian casualties were but dispensable pawns in its chess match with Israel.
Notice not only the cynical exploitation of civilian trust by Hezbollah, but also that the Israeli UN Ambassador informed the world about what was going on right from the start of the fighting, but was ignored.

BTW, the article misses out the material point that it is credibly reported that Hezbollah, even before the kidnappings of soldiers in the North -- itself an internationally recognised causus belli, had already begun launching missiles into Northern Israel. As even so humble a source as Wikipedia reports:
The conflict began when Hezbollah fired Katyusha rockets and mortars at Israeli military positions and border villages to divert attention from another Hezbollah unit that crossed the border and kidnapped two Israeli soldiers (Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev) and killed three. Israel attempted to rescue the abducted soldiers although five more were killed by Hezbollah during the rescue mission. [Cf Haaretz report which gives details, and notes that that "[a]s soon as this barrage began, the Galilee Division conducted a routine check to ensure that all army outposts and vehicles were still in contact with headquarters, and quickly discovered that contact had been lost with the two jeeps patrolling near Zarit." This is how the raid and kidnaping were discovered. Contrast this Washington Post report, which tellingly omits reference to the initiation of rocketing and targetting of civilians by Hezbollah.]
What does the above and linked tell us about the attitudes and intent of the news and views presenters in the major media? Have you seen or heard this side of the story in the international or regional news reports usually seen by most people in the Caribbean? Why, in your opinion, is that so?

How, then should we view their presentations on other sensitive and controversial issues?

I see that the posting problems yesterday at Blogger led to multiple copies, even though my edit feature now says they do not exist. Do, pardon the problem. Also, I realised that there is a dearth of background to understand the wider situation with Israel: for instance, I have long used the question of telling the significance of the year 1919 and the names Chaim Weizmann and Feisal Hussein as a test to see if one knows enough to think and comment with accurate and balanced insight. [If you do not know the significance of these names and that date, you objectively do not know enough to comment fairly and in an informed way. A similar question is why is there an Arab state called Jordan.] So, for a brief balancing overview of the history of modern Israel go here. This short myth-correcting book [PDF format] will also be helpful.

UPDATE: Seems that the edit and repost above fixed the multiple copies problem!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

On "Theocracy," 12: Rom 1 - 2 & 13, liberty and the public vs. private spheres

WARNING: Disturbing content

We sometimes refer to certain parts of our bodies as "private," and as a rule will refuse to put these parts of our bodies on public display, through a sense of shame, or a commitment to modesty, or in some cases a fear of possible legal consequences.

At the same time, the very existence of pornography, peeping toms, flashers, utterly immodest dress, indecent entertainment acts, date rape and prostitution tells us that there are those who take inappropriate pleasure or profit from the breaching of this barrier -- often trying to make the claim that they are championing "liberty" as they do so. (In fact, we need to distinguish between liberty on the one hand, and licence, libertinism and amorality [often disguised as "tolerance" and "diversity"] on the other. For, as Rom 13:8 - 10 reminds us, neighbour-love does no harm. )

Why, then, do we instinctively draw a line between the public and the private, and why is there a clash between shame and pleasure over its breach?

To properly address this contentious question requires, first, a detour through some of the dynamics of public debate:

1] For parties to a debate to logically agree on a conclusion, they have to accept certain premises in common, P, then follow them out to their logical conclusion, C:
P => C, P, so C.
2] But then, if one is sufficiently motivated to reject C, one can work the logical chain back-ways: Not-C so not-P. So, if there is no mutually agreed sufficiently broad and powerful set of premises, no consensus on conclusions can be achieved.

3] But in turn, the rejecting of premises and conclusions may be tellingly revealing of underlying agendas and logical and/or moral inconsistencies. For, if the rejection of P requires a selectively hyperskeptical [thus hypocritical -- often blindly so] rejection of truths or facts that would otherwise be plain and obvious, then the question is being begged in service to an agenda.

4] As is described in the just linked, such selective hyperskepticism, at its core, is the decision to dismiss facts or truths
inconsistently -- i.e. you have set the hurdle for these claims so high that no facts or truths of the general kind in question could surmount the barrier. But of course, for facts and truths not in contention, you are perfectly willing to accept a lower standard of test. No prizes for guessing why.

5] That in turn means that once selective hyperskepticism has been smoked out, onlookers are in a position to judge for themselves just why it is that such an inconsistent standard is being self-servingly brought into play by a party to a debate.

So now, we are forewarned and forearmed.

For instance, we can observe that while some people will wear provocatively immodest clothing that suggests, presents and hints at their private parts, passions and sexual availability -- and will champion publicly funded or displayed artwork that is far more prurient than that -- the same people would as a rule be utterly embarrassed to be caught helplessly naked in the middle of a major traffic intersection.

[In case the reader thinks this is a mere hypothetical, s/he might wish to consider the case of the publicly funded and controversial Redemption Song nude statue group at the corner of Oxford Road and Knutsford Boulevard in New Kingston, Jamaica;
which is so posed as to put the exaggerated male and female pubic regions at the eye-level of passersby. (Note how -- ever so tellingly! -- one of the dismissers of moral concern has to ask passersby to "elevate their eyes to the expression of spiritual yearning and hope," as noted here in a Florida newspaper report. That means that something that is usually regarded as intensely private, and in much larger than life size, has been put at eye-level and it obviously is not the upturned "spiritual" faces!) Moreover, it is not without relevance to note that: (1) this site was precisely the location of a public protest against the institution of Playboy porn channel Cable TV-sponsored mass nude weddings at Hedonism III in February 2001, and (2) in the Emancipation Park for which the statues were commissioned, at opening, not one historical monument to the history of emancipation, nor the Biblically rooted motivations of many of Jamaica's heroes or ideal was to be found. Indeed, (3) major national symbols such as the Pledge, Motto, Coat of Arms, and Anthem were conspicuously absent. Not even the incorrect date of emancipation -- 1838, much less the correct date -- 1834, was to be found.]

Or, getting back to the more sordid parts of our history raised by slavery, even the most immodest people would find themselves utterly humiliated to be put up, more or less naked, on an auction block and sexually inspected and commented on by interested buyers and bystanders as part of the "tomato-pinching" before being auctioned off to the highest bidder.

In short, there is an obvious and vast, intuitively recognised difference between what is suitable for the privacy of the God-blessed marital bedroom or the doctor's office, and what is appropriate for the public context -- however much some may wish to play around with the borderline. Selective hyperskepticism about this, therefore only reveals an intellectually and morally indefensible agenda at work.

The distinction between the public and the private spheres, clearly, also fulfills some very important protective -- and even liberating -- social functions:

First, our children need a safe public space in which they can be appropriately stimulated and educated without fear of exposure to images, ideas, agendas and situations that they are neither mature enough to handle well, nor capable of defending themselves from.

Second, through institutionalising modesty, in part through recognising, protecting (and sometimes subsidising) marriage and the family, society is able to promote the healthy rearing of the next generation, helping to preserve itself.

Third, in light of the classic observation that men in particular are prone to leave a trail of havoc across a community through abusing physical, social and sexual prowess -- witness the fact that rape is as a rule a crime committed by men -- societies require several key institutional walls of protection.

Fourth, since it is now common to encounter the notion that activist judges or legislatures can freely and safely decree at will that marriage needs not be reflective of the natural difference between men and women, it must be noted that not only is the heterosexual bond a basis for procreation and sound child nurture, but that the associated denigration of the limits of nature is not only physically unhealthy but also is fraught with implications for the fabric of protection of children in the community based on the public/private distinction.

Fifth, we must never forget that liberty always has proper limits: my right implies your duty, given the basic fact that we are equals in nature under God, and so we have mutual obligations under the principle that neighbour-love does no harm. Nor, are we justified to assume or assert without further proof that lawful restrictions imposed by legitimate authorities that do not suit our preferences on public morality are to be derided and dismissed as oppressive impositions of "censorship," without specific and good reason for such a conclusion.

All of this speaks to a common voice of conscience-guided reason that whispers within, echoing, in turn, some telling but sometimes unwelcome insights from the Apostle Paul's Epistle to the Romans, a now often unacknowledged foundational work for Western Culture as we know it:

1:20 . . . since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse . . . .

RO 1:28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them . . . .

2:14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the [written OT] law, do by nature things required by the law . . . 15 . . . they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.)

In short, there is an intuitively recognised core of conscience-guided reason and awareness of the creation-based, morally conditioned nature of reality that leads us to God; if we would but listen. Sadly, we are instead tempted to suppress this as it is often inconvenient to our desired agendas, profits and pleasures. If we do so, we have no excuse and find ourselves victims of darkened understandings, benumbed consciences and out-of-control, sometimes perverted passions -- leading to massive social disruption and disintegration. In turn, when anarchy reaches a critical point, as Germany in the 1930s showed convincingly, the public will accept tyranny on the hope that it will restore order. In short, once we ignore the moral context of liberty, it becomes suicidally self-destructive.

So, in fact, the sort of inconsistency on the moral issue of modesty just highlighted is quite revealing on our core moral challenge: our willful, sinful alienation from our Creator. Such a rebellion easily leads us to proclaim that our bondages are our liberties and also to refuse to accept -- especially when it cuts across our profits or pleasures -- that it is a core criterion of sustainable liberty that we should we should do no harm to our neighbours. (Thus, in effect, we have now arrived at a core issue connected to our need to repent in light of the credibility of the Gospel; but that is a side-point relative to our current focus.)

So now, we are in an excellent position to evaluate and respond to the sort of comment that Mr Boyne recently made, in portraying those he insists on smearing as "fundamentalists" in the following light:

In Jamaica you encounter some mindless Christian fundamentalists who, if they had their way, would ban certain television programmes, certain movies and certain books and would even seek to impose dress-length standards on our women to fight the scourge of dancehall fashions. Don't think it's just the Taliban who has this kind of mentality. Talk to your fundamentalist, Bible-thumping neighbour and see how open-minded he or she really is.

First we observe the warning-sign of dismissive rhetoric and assertion of irresponsible [im]moral equivalency: mindless Bible-thumping fundamentalists more or less at the same moral level as the fanatical and oppressive Taliban of Afghanistan -- as if the differences between Jamaican evangelicals and the like and the Taliban are not obvious, material and even vast. But more on the point, in light of the issue of the importance of distinguishing the public/private spheres and the issue of appropriate behaviour in the public sphere, issues of modesty are not automatically to be equated to censorship and oppression.

Indeed, on the dance hall behaviour question, I once recall a case where videos of the audience at a public dancehall event were repeatedly shown for several days on my local access cable tv channel in Jamaica, at all hours of day and night.

My wife drew my attention to it, and late one evening I took time to watch; only, to see an informal lewdness contest by a circle of women, "won" by one who shocked her companions by exposing then pulling down her underwear and publicly sexually manipulating her now quite plainly visible private parts in front of the now tightly focussed, pruriently watching cameras -- and this, in front of not only adults but children present [some of whom had particpated in the lewd conduct]. When I complained to the management of the company, at first they were skeptical of my perceived attitude of "censorship," but when I then explained in a bit more details than I will here, they at once indicated that this was unauthorised, and that they would have to act to see to it that such lewd and illegal public displays would never happen again on their channel. [Note how, in attempting to "justify" the mass nude weddings at Hedonism III, another commentator corroborates these observations here. Cf my objection to the now annual nude weddings event at the time it was started, here. I have now added a copy of this post to that page.]

Plainly, given what is at stake at length, serious moral concern to defend public morality in the face of a subculture that evidently encourages public misbehaviour
and associated immodest patterns of dress -- is plainly warranted. [Recall here the case of Lady Saw and why she became controversial for lewd behaviour and indecent lyrics, especially what the Jamaica Observer calls "her signature crotch patting" which in the linked case led up to her "calling dancer Ice on stage who engaged a female patron in dry-humping."] So, while we indeed need to be careful of the line between liberty and censorship, it is plain that obscenity has long been recognised as objectionable and actionable under law, for excellent reason. Similarly, morally concerned people -- and this, classically, includes Bible-believing Christians -- are well within their rights to object to and boycott immodest public [or even on-private-property "entertainment"] behaviour, speech, broadcasts, dress and yes even television programming that fall far short of legally actionable obscenity.

In such a context, we are equally well within our rights to ask pointed questions on the underlying attitudes and motivation of very well informed public figures such as Mr Boyne, who -- without adequately reckoning with serious concerns and issues such as the above -- try to push those who raise such concerns into the same boat as Islamist terrorists and oppressors.

For, that sounds a lot like bigotry and stirring up of misunderstanding, leading to unjustified resentment and hostility to me. For shame! END

Friday, October 27, 2006

Heads Up: Is Mr Fidel Castro terminally ill?

BREAKING: This morning I ran across the just linked NRO article by Mr Otto Reich, former assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere and later in the National Security Council, who reports of Mr Fidel Castro that:
This time the rumors are real: Castro is dying of stomach cancer. He may have already died, even before the funeral preparations were finished, so the news is not out. Confirmation of the terminal illness comes from the usual sources but in a non-conventional manner. The Cuban government has been summoning to Havana representatives of the major international media to negotiate the best seats, camera angles, and interviews with the despot’s political survivors, and to inform them of the ground rules for coverage of the state funeral.
He goes on to a rather acerbic commentary, at points IMHCO in rather poor taste; but this is important news for us in the Caribbean, to at least keep an eye open for.

Certainly I heard nothing on BBC this morning, and this is not independently confirmed, but it comes from an obviously well-connected source. So, it would be wise to keep an ear and eye out for possible developments.

More than that, let us pray for the good and long oppressed people of Cuba that God will grant them a way forward to a good outcome under the blessings of liberty; which are to be found in the Seed of Abraham. [Gal 3:14]

Also, for Mr Castro that even at death's door -- if the report is true -- he will make it right with his Maker.

And for his family that they will find a way to reconciliation and a good way forward for their nation.

The Cuban government is vigorously denying these "rumours," but is providing no details on Mr Castro's condition. The trur situation will make itself plain presently.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Matt 24 Watch, 4: The other side of the story on Mr Bush

Since deception and the stirring of unwarranted hostility against those who name the name of Christ are very much in view in Matt 24, it may be wise for us to take a look at the other side of the story on many issues in which we are led to take a hostile view of people identified as Christians.

Here, because of its notoriety and its frequent use as a benchmark for "progressive" thought in our region, I believe the case of the generally hostile and negative view of Mr Bush should be looked at.

For, since so much of the press we get on Mr Bush in the Caribbean comes out of the mouths of media houses that consistently fail the straight vs spin test, it may be worth the while to hear a little on the other side of the story -- the side we do not see headlined as a rule:

1] Pess Conference with questions and answers, Oct 25:

. . . as released by the White House, here

Interesting excerpts worth a thought or two, mostly on the Iraq situation:

The events of the past month have been a serious concern to me, and a serious concern to the American people. Today I will explain how we're adapting our tactics to help the Iraqi government gain control of the security situation. I'll also explain why, despite the difficulties and bloodshed, it remains critical that America defeat the enemy in Iraq by helping the Iraqis build a free nation that can sustain itself and defend itself.

Our security at home depends on ensuring that Iraq is an ally in the war on terror and does not become a terrorist haven like Afghanistan under the Taliban . . . After the fall of Saddam Hussein, a sophisticated and a violent insurgency took root. Early on this insurgency was made up of remnants of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, as well as criminals released by the regime. The insurgency was fueled by al Qaeda and other foreign terrorists, who focused most of their attention on high-profile attacks against coalition forces and international institutions.

We learned some key lessons from that early phase in the war. We saw how quickly al Qaeda and other extremist groups would come to Iraq to fight and try to drive us out. We overestimated the capability of the civil service in Iraq to continue to provide essential services to the Iraqi people. We did not expect the Iraqi army, including the Republican Guard, to melt away in the way that it did in the phase of advancing coalition forces.

Despite these early setbacks, some very important progress was made, in the midst of an incredibly violent period. Iraqis formed an interim government that assumed sovereignty. The Iraqi people elected a transitional government, drafted and adopted the most progressive democratic constitution in the Arab world, braved the car bombs and assassins to choose a permanent government under that constitution, and slowly began to build a capable national army.

Al Qaeda and insurgents were unable to stop this progress. They tried to stand up to our forces in places like Fallujah, and they were routed. So they changed their tactics. In an intercepted letter to Osama bin Laden, the terrorist Zarqawi laid out his strategy to drag Iraq's Shia population into a sectarian war . . . . A military solution alone will not stop violence. In the end, the Iraqi people and their government will have to make the difficult decisions necessary to solve these problems. So, in addition to refining our military tactics to defeat the enemy, we're also working to help the Iraqi government achieve a political solution that brings together Shia and Sunnis and Kurds and other ethnic and religious groups . . . .

It's my responsibility to provide the American people with a candid assessment on the way forward. There is tough fighting ahead. The road to victory will not be easy. We should not expect a simple solution. The fact that the fighting is tough does not mean our efforts in Iraq are not worth it. To the contrary; the consequences in Iraq will have a decisive impact on the security of our country, because defeating the terrorists in Iraq is essential to turning back the cause of extremism in the Middle East. If we do not defeat the terrorists or extremists in Iraq, they will gain access to vast oil reserves, and use Iraq as a base to overthrow moderate governments across the broader Middle East. They will launch new attacks on America from this new safe haven. They will pursue their goal of a radical Islamic empire that stretches from Spain to Indonesia . . . . We must not fall prey to the sophisticated propaganda by the enemy, who is trying to undermine our confidence and make us believe that our presence in Iraq is the cause of all its problems . . . .

this is a different kind of war than a war against the fascists in World War II . . . This is a war against extremists and radicals who kill innocent people to achieve political objectives. It has a multiple of fronts.

Afghanistan was a front in this war against the terrorists. Iraq is now the central front in the war against the terrorists. This war is more than just finding people and bringing them to justice; this war is an ideological conflict between a radical ideology that can't stand freedom, and moderate, reasonable people that hope to live in a peaceful society.

And so it's going to take a long time . . . . The ultimate victory in Iraq, which is a government that can sustain itself, govern itself, and defend itself, depends upon the Iraqi citizens and the Iraqi government doing the hard work necessary to protect their country. And our job is to help them achieve that objective. As a matter of fact, my view is the only way we lose in Iraq is if we leave before the job is done . . . .

[I]t's incumbent upon our government and others who enjoy the blessings of liberty to help those moderates succeed because, otherwise, we're looking at the potential of this kind of world: a world in which radical forms of Islam compete for power; a world in which moderate governments get toppled by people willing to murder the innocent; a world in which oil reserves are controlled by radicals in order to extract blackmail from the West; a world in which Iran has a nuclear weapon. And if that were to occur, people would look back at this day and age and say, what happened to those people in 2006? How come they couldn't see the threat to a future generation of people?
We should ask whether this is a coherent account that meets the facts and issues adequately, and whether the alternative accounts do a better job. The fact that as a rule Mr Bush's actual case disappears from press accounts, save for soundbites used to feed the other story, may be a hint already, as to who has the better case on the facts vs who has superior media power.

2] More personal Conference with a circle of Conservative Journalists, Oct 25:

. . . as reported by Mr Barone here:
Like many others who have been with Bush in the Oval Office, I have found him to be much more articulate and forceful in that setting than he often is in press conferences or in taking questions from traveling reporters. The interview was on the record, so we are posting an MP3 audio recording (High bandwidth | Low bandwidth) of the whole hour . . . .

. . . . [Mr Bush] began the interview by looking ahead to what the Middle East will be in 25 years–and arguing that it will be in better shape than it might be because of what we are doing now [NB: this is out of order in the report] . . . .

He clearly sees his primary mission as protecting the American people from the terrorists who want to do everything they can to hurt and destroy us and our civilization. He makes the point that we ought to listen to their words when they threaten to kill us–even though our first instinct is to flinch and turn away from threats that, if taken seriously, are extremely disturbing. Later he returned to this theme. The September 11 attacks made it clear, he said, that we're at war, and we're still at war. These terrorists want to kill us and destroy our civilization, and they will use any excuse that comes to mind–Israel, the Crusades, and if not the Crusades then the cartoons.

"If this country lets down its guard, it will be a fatal mistake."

He then argued that we have severely hurt the terrorists–but that as long as we see victory as the absence of strife, the terrorists can convince us that we're not winning by random killing.

"If absence of violence is victory," he said, then nobody can ever make a claim of winning . . . .

We're now in the process of trying to convince [Arab leaders in the ME] and others outside the region that Iran's possession of nuclear weapons is of greater importance than other concerns they have . . . And we're trying to persuade others to convince Syria that it should stop supporting terrorists and destabilizing Lebanon. On North Korea, he noted that its announcement of its nuclear test has prompted some Japanese leaders to suggest that that country might develop nuclear weapons. He argued that if we negotiated with North Korea alone, the world would tend to urge us to make any concessions. I asked about the dangers of North Korea's proliferating nuclear weapons (citing a recent Rand study showing the effects of a 10-kiloton nuclear explosion in Los Angeles harbor) and biological weapons (citing a Popular Mechanics article on North Korea's efforts to weaponize anthrax, botulism, and plague), both referred to in my most recent U.S. News column. He responded by describing the 70-nation Proliferation Security Initiative–a huge multilateral initiative by this administration that is largely ignored by mainstream media . . . .

On the way out the door, I asked him what he had been reading lately. The answer: Andrew Roberts's A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900 (an advance copy, apparently) . . . Roberts's English-Speaking Peoples is an extension of Churchill's multicentury history that ends around 1900, and I expect that it will take Churchill's view: that the English-speaking peoples have over the centuries taken up the responsibility of expanding freedom and spreading democracy and the rule of law around the world. [Cf my remarks here on the roots of modern liberty.]

That is Bush's view as well, as I was reminded when I noticed the bust of Churchill as I was leaving the Oval Office.


I think we need to take a sober, second look at the situation and the implications of what we say and do today, in light of both sides of the question -- the one trumpeted to us every day by BBC, CNN, local media that take their cues from these sources, etc, and the side we usually do not hear much of; not only for ourselves but also for our posterity in the Caribbean and across the world -- over the next two generations.

Then, let us look very carefully on the tone and substance of the ways in which evangelical Chistians are being portrayed in the international and regional media as in effect a mirror image to islamist terrorists. Finally, let us take a sober look at the issues connected to the Islamist -- as opposed to "ordinary" Muslim -- approach to Islam and the "duty" of jihad, and the implications of the 100 year global subjugation programme embarked upon by the Muslim Brotherhood since 1982 -- bearing in mind not only the fact that the MB is a parent of Al Qaeda as we know it, but also suppressed news such as the rise of an Islamist "intifada" in France.

That second look may well put a very different balance on the issues than we have been wont to see. END

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Jamaica's Spiritual, Covenant Map: Nationhood under God

A Jamaican sister and friend from childhood shares this with us:


Last week was Homecoming Week in Jamaica , hosted by Hands Across Jamaica for Righteousness. ( Yvonne Coke , thanks for being obedient and committed to this vision!) It was God-ordained that I should be home for that. I kept hearing about the MAP of Jamaica , and how it is a guide for us to follow . . . .

Well, I discovered that this had nothing to do with the geography I learned in school. The MAP is The Motto, The Anthem, and The Pledge!!




Eternal Father, bless our land

Guard us with Thy mighty hand

Keep us free from evil powers

Be our Light through countless hours

To our leaders, great Defender,

Grant true wisdom from above.

Justice, truth be ours forever

Jamaica, land we love!

Teach us true respect for all

Stir response to duty’s call

Strengthen us the weak to cherish

Give us vision lest we perish

Knowledge send us, heavenly Father

Grant true wisdom from above

Justice, truth be ours forever

Jamaica, land we love!


Before God and all mankind

I pledge

the love and loyalty of my heart

the wisdom and courage of my mind

the strength and vigour of my body in the service of my fellow citizens.

I promise to stand up for justice, brotherhood and peace

To work diligently and creatively

To think generously and honestly

So that Jamaica may, under God, increase in beauty, fellowship and prosperity

And play her part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race!

God decided long ago the times and the places where people would live, so that we would search for Him and find Him, even though He is not far from any one of us. (Acts 17:27) AWESOME!

Please pray with me that Jamaica will consult her MAP on a daily basis, and fulfill the pledge we have made before God and all the nations of this earth, to the very bottom line – until the whole earth is filled with the knowledge of the glory of God, even as the waters cover the sea!! (Habakkuk 2:14)


Oh, that we Jamaicans had but kept our covenant!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

On “Theocracy,” 11: Mr Schroeder's irrational fear of God-fearing leadership

After last week's intensity, I had hoped to begin this week on a light note, perhaps with a note on the river/mountain mullet, Agonostomus monticola, a small [½ – 2 lb] but feisty Caribbean gamefish found in rivers from the Carolinas to Venezuela -- sometimes fished for with avocado as bait! -- and celebrated in the famous Jamaican poem, the Song of the Banana Man. [Ken Sorhaindo of Dominica rates it as spunkier than a trout.]

I had also hoped to look at Linspire's interesting freebie web authoring tool, Nvu (and hoped for onward developments). [Official web page and links to downloads are here. Unofficial bug fix upgrades here.]

Sigh . . .

These will wait, for, in a remark in his memoirs, as reported here in The Times of London, Mr Schroeder of Germany, reportedly "an agnostic," shows the same pattern of invidious comparison and irresponsible [im]moral equivalency we have been discussing, in speaking of President Bush of the USA:

Again and again in our private talks it became clear how God-fearing this President was and how ruled he was by what he saw as a Higher Power,” says Herr Schröder in the memoirs, Decisions: My Life In Politics . . . .

We rightly criticise that in most Islamic states there is no clear separation between religion and the rule of law,” he says. “But we fail to recognise that, in the US, the Christian fundamentalists and their interpretation of the Bible have similar tendencies.

If both sides claim to be in possession of the only valid truth, then there is no room for manoeuvre.”

Of course, Mr Schroeder here, in his haste to join in that ever-popular political sport, Bush-bashing, first of all finds himself in opposition to King David:

2SA 23:1 These are the last words of David:

"The oracle of David son of Jesse . . .

Israel's singer of songs . . . .

2SA 23:3 The God of Israel spoke,

the Rock of Israel said to me:

`When one rules over men in righteousness,

when he rules in the fear of God,

2SA 23:4 he is like the light of morning at sunrise

on a cloudless morning,

like the brightness after rain

that brings the grass from the earth.'

In short, given the very long and quite distinguished history and legacy of God-fearing rulers, Mr Schroeder is plainly utterly out of order to single out God-fearing-ness as a disqualification for political leadership.

Secondly, he creates a fallacy-rich environment, for – sadly -- he has evidently failed to learn the key geopolitical lesson of the C20: appeasement of aggressive totalitarians [e.g. Hitler] is much less successful than containment and firm sustained resolution [e.g. Communism], even as a context for diplomacy and compromise. (That is, agreements backed by resolute capacity to act firmly are more likely to succeed than those without teeth or the will to back up words with swords if necessary. This is also of course the same geopolitical lesson that leaps off the pages of 1400 years of Islamist history. And, it would be wise to reckon with the implications of the recently captured Muslim Brotherhood plan for a 100-year programme to subjugate the world.)

More importantly Mr Schroeder utterly fails to address the basic point that there is a vast and not very subtle difference between:

[a] reckoning that one, as a civil authority, is responsible under God to do good and defend what is just while doing no harm to one's neighbour [Rom 13:1 - 10], while being all-too-fallible, finite and fallen/sinful [Cf here Matt 7:1 – 5]; and,

[b] seeing "justification" for murderous suicide bombing and beheading of innocents through something like 164 texts that command jihad, such as the historically important Q 9:5 and 29 – 31: “...slay the idolaters wherever you find them...take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush . . . . Fight those who do not believe in Allah...nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book [i.e. Jews and Christians], until they pay the [Jizya] tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection [i.e. what has come to be known as Dhimmitude] . . .”

BTW, it is worth noting that the pagan emperor Nero – admittedly, in the happier first period of his regime in which he was under Seneca's tutelage -- was the principal civil authority in mind in the NT's “sword verse,” Rom 13:4, which says of such an authority: “. . . he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”

Not to mention, Mr Schroeder also needs to observe carefully that the Christian faith teaches that core principles of morality -- such as Rom 13:8 - 10, that we should do no harm as we should love and respect our neighbours as we love ourselves -- are self-evident truths open to and recognised by all; on pain of grossly inconsistent absurdity:

Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the [written, OT] law, do by nature things required by the law . . . [they] show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.” [ Rom 2: 14 – 15 ]

That is, there is an obvious and vast difference between recognising the theistic, God-fearing worldview roots of universally recognisable core morality and the establishment of an oppressive, theocratic state order or a closed-minded agenda of self-righteous intransigence. For, as Locke cites “the judicious Hooker” in Ch 2 Section 5 of his 2nd Treatise of Civil Government:

. . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man's hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant.

In brief, as we ponder our common humanity as created by God, we are led to recognise that if I wish to be treated in a certain way by others, I should see that my equals in nature are deserving of the same treatment: i.e. we have arrived at Jesus'/Moses' Golden Rule, love your neighbour as yourself. From this principle, Locke immediately derives the principles of natural liberty, and the grounds for resistance to tyranny:

The state of Nature has a law of Nature to govern it, which obliges every one, and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions [Cf. Rom 13:8 – 10.] . . . . so by the like reason, when his own preservation comes not in competition, ought he as much as he can to preserve the rest of mankind, and not unless it be to do justice on an offender, take away or impair the life, or what tends to the preservation of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another . . . . In transgressing the law of Nature, the offender declares himself to live by another rule than that of reason and common equity, which is that measure God has set to the actions of men for their mutual security, and so he becomes dangerous to mankind . . . .

It is no surprise, therefore, to see in the justly famous first and second paragraphs of the 1776 American Declaration of Independence:

When . . . it becomes necessary for one people . . . to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, [cf Rom 1:18 - 21, 2:14 - 15], that 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. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Plainly, Mr Schroeder and others of his ilk need to think again. For, in fact, a well-founded, God-fearing worldview is a bastion of liberty, even in the face of the insidious threats of theocratic, terrorism-inspiring global conquest ideologies. END