Monday, October 08, 2007

Joanne shares about Johnnie

Joanne Cash shares a bit about her famous brother Johnnie:

<>< TM

Thursday, August 30, 2007

"Feelings? Yes, Feelings..."

From the excellent "Catholic Analysis" blog:
In the felt experience wherein the soul finds the certitude that God is within it, the soul is given the grace of wanting God so perfectly that everything in it is in true and not false harmony. False harmony exists when the soul says that it wants God but does not really mean it, because its desire for God is not true in everything, in every way, or in every respect. Its desire for God is true when all the members of the body are in harmony with the soul, and the soul in turn is in such harmony with the heart and with the entire body that it becomes one with them and responds as one for all of them. Then the soul truly wants God, and this desire is granted to it through grace.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

a theology of salvation

Note: the following was prepared for a teaching I gave one week ago on an overview of the New Testament epistles 1 & 2 Thessalonians.

A Protestant Christian living in 21st century America has a theology based on the teachings and understandings of 500 years worth of theological debates, teachings and systems, beginning with Marin Luther. Every possible angle and argument 'for this' / 'against that' has been examined, judged and noted. However, the question remains: has Protestant systematic theology helped to clarify what it means when the Bible talks about salvation, or has it made it into something that wouldn't be recognizable by Jesus, Paul, Peter and the early church? I'm afraid the later point may be the case.

But rather than giving a critical analysis of the various systems of Protestant theological thought in the 21st century, I think it better and wise to examine what salvation meant, and how it is obtained by taking an inductive look at the entire canon of New Testament writings, especially those authored by Paul.

But first, the most important issue: what is salvation? How is it defined? Salvation is first of all, and most importantly for us, the God given ability to be removed from the actions and attitudes in this life that are ultimately destructive in nature. These activities are quite varied, and include the usual list of vices like drunkenness, laziness, lying, cheating and so on. In the salvation experience, God delivers us from those destructive tendencies which had previously controlled our lives. If you aren't a slave to God, chances are you are a slave to something else, and something no where near as redeeming.

Secondly, salvation has to do with the fact that God greatly desires to be in relationship with man, and is willing to do whatever he can to enable and encourage this relationship, like the above mentioned deliverance from destructive activities, i.e. "sin". However, it is God's desire to continue this relationship for all eternity, and hence those who accept the God's invitation to salvation, can ultimately look forward to eternal life with God, through the resurrection of the dead. This is the great hope of every single Christian believer. [see JOHN, chapter 3]

Sadly, the concept and the teachings about salvation have been somewhat distorted by popular Christian teachers on TV and radio, as well as by other Christian celebrities who are far more interested in building large organizations than in correct theology. The main difference between a Biblical understanding of salvation and the way it is generally defined in pop-Christian culture is that in popular understanding salvation is an event, while in the Bible, salvation is defined as a process.

Some blame for this can be laid at the feet of divinity schools themselves, especially more conservative ones. But mostly the problem rests in the philosophical mindset that dominates Western culture, and application to Biblical texts, that philosophy being the rational, analytical mindset that tends to see things as component pieces rather than complete systems. While this mindset can be quite useful for scientific and technological pursuits, it can get in the way when it comes to large scale, long time period processes that involve multiple variables and inputs. The Western mindset has a tendency to avoid this sort of complexity, in favor of very simple, practical concepts that can be easily understood. However, a life of a man is not something that can be lived nor understood by simply applying the scientific method; rather, it is more like a story or novel, where various problems and people must be engaged and overcome. To understand the Biblical texts is to understand a story, not a single event, that story being God's relationship with man.

In the New Testament, you will often find texts that would lead you to believe that salvation is an event, especially in the book of Acts. However, reading the New Testament in a more inductive, synthetic fashion demonstrates clearly that salvation is not just a point in time where you turned to God and turned away from a destructive life style, but it is an ongoing process that begins the day you decide to follow after God, and is ultimately rewarded on the Day of Judgment, when Christians and non-Christians alike stand before the throne of God to be judged for their actions (not theological knowledge!), and rewarded or punished depending on that judgment.

The following is a general outline of how the process of salvation works in the life of a believer:

1. A person discovers that God is real, and that God desires relationship with man, as made clear through the teachings and life of Jesus, the son of God. This discovery is always a direct result of God's intention, not man's! In other words, God is the one who seeks us out, and initiates relationship, and we respond accordingly.

[ see LUKE 19-1:11; JOHN 6:25-71; JOHN 10 ]

2. A decision is made to intentionally ask God to help facilitate that relationship, which is commonly known as "the sinner's prayer," where as a person will ask God to help them put an end to any destructive attitudes or actions that they have engaged in, and then commit to live a constructive, ethical life based upon the ethics and morals as described in the Bible, but which are often well known to the human heart as well.

[ see EPHESIANS 2; LUKE 15; LUKE 18:9-14; LUKE 19:1-11; 2 CORINTHIANS 5 ]

3. In order to get the ability to live a changed life, a person will ask God to be "baptized" by the Holy Spirit, which is simply asking God to live within you! Sometimes God will provide the Holy Spirit even without it being asked for directly, due to his merciful response to those who are struggling to overcome difficulty in their lives. Asking God to live within you gives you the spiritual energy and wisdom you need to overcome evil in your life, and the lives of others. It is literally the power and energy of God given to man. It is the single most important gift God gives man, and when a person learns to live by the power of the Holy Spirit, there is no limit in terms of the good that they can do.

[ see JOHN 3; JOHN 14 through 17; ACTS -the entire book ]

4. Often times a person will ask for and receive water baptism as an outward sign of their commitment to live a new life guided by the power of the Holy Spirit, and the well known ethics and moral of Christianity.

[ see MATTHEW 3; JOHN 3; ACTS 2; ACTS 8 ]

5. Once the decision to follow God has been made, and the baptisms of water and the Holy Spirit are received, a person will then begin the process of spiritual, emotional, psychological, and sometimes physical healing, as enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit. These healings can take place almost instantly, or in other cases quite a while, depending upon the person, their background, and their resolve to be healed.

[ see MATTHEW, MARK, LUKE, JOHN, ACTS -the entire books ]

6. In order to maintain the momentum of the initial decision to live an upright and constructive life, a person will then begin to engage in outward disciplines designed to help them move forward towards the ultimate goal of eternal life, especially the meeting together with other Christians, Bible study, prayer, and devotional reading.

[ see ACTS 2; 1 CORINTHIANS 11 through 14; ROMANS 12; 1 PETER 4:7-11 ]

7. But the most important discipline of all, is learning to live by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gives direction, purpose and motivation to a person's life. By living by the power of the Holy Spirit, a person will be enabled to live the very moral and ethical life that is required by God.

[ see ROMANS 8; GALATIANS 5:16-26; ACTS -the entire book ]

8. Once a person makes the decision to follow after Jesus, they will be tested with a variety of trails, tribulations and problems that will need to be overcome. In some cases, these trials may begin almost as soon as a person makes the commitment. Yet no matter the person or their circumstance, testing of their faith is guaranteed. The testing comes mainly in two general forms: external and internal. External testing is usually opposition, either active or passive, from other people who are opposed to your decision; whether they be friends, family or co-workers. The internal opposition comes from destructive habits and thoughts that still have a foothold in our lives. Often both forms of testing come about through the work of evil spirits, who are opposed to God, and to anyone who would follow after Him. These demonic spirits use other people they have influence over, plus your own weaknesses and woundedness in an attempt to halt the process of salvation.


9. The testing of a person's commitment through the trials and tribulations of life results in an even deeper understanding of the Trinity, and greater reliance on the Holy Spirit for guidance and power.

[ see 2 CORINTHIANS 11:1-12:10; JAMES 1, 1 PETER -the entire book]

10. As a person matures in their salvation, they become increasingly effective in pursuing and implementing various positive, constructive habits and behaviors that not only increases the joy and happiness of the one so transformed, but also those around them. However, it should be noted that for this to be fully successful, it relies on a person's ability to live by the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Hence, it is not just a person's good intentions and will power that are at work, but the enabling power of God working through a person. There is a very real and literal partnership between a Christian and God, that results in one of the often overlooked activities of salvation: brining heaven to earth. A Christian becomes a partner with God to bring about justice, compassion, peace and well being here on earth. This activity is a critical component of salvation.

[ see 1 CORINTHIANS 2, GALATIANS 5 through 6, JAMES -the entire book ]

11. Having lived a set number of days on earth, pursuing a relationship with God through trails and troubles, and working with God to bring about justice and compassion, a believer stands before the judgment seat of God, to be evaluated as to their commitment to salvation, and their activities regarding salvation. A Christian who has lived his life in accordance with the leadings and guidance of the Holy Spirit will have nothing to fear on this day.


12. Having been approved by God for the life lived on earth, a Christian enters into eternal life, where trials, troubles and tribulations cease, and now the Christian becomes a co-ruler with God. The very least, most humble person on this earth, who has lived his life in accordance with the leadings and guidance of the Holy Spirit to the best of his ability, may become one of the greatest kings in the heavenly realm of God. And yes, for those who've persevered until the end of their days, they will inherit far greater wealth, luxury and happiness than the greatest kings here on earth, without any of the troubles and problems that earthly kings face. As far as opportunities go, is this the greatest opportunity that a man can have in this life, well worth any price or pain endured in it's acquisition.

[ see 1 CORINTHIANS 15; MATTHEW 19:16-30; MATTHEW 25; REVELATION 21 through 22 ]

It needs to be noted that there are three key points about the process of salvation that are critical to it's successful conclusion. These are three activities/attitudes that every single Christian is called to participate in, no matter their background or their circumstances:

1. A Christian must learn to live and yield to the power of the Holy Spirit within them, and continually work to develop the relationship with the Spirit. The Spirit does not come into a person to take over, but only to offer guidance and motivation. However, it is up to the Christian to seek out and consider the Spirit's help, and to follow it's leadings. Just like a human source of guidance, the Holy Spirit can be ignored or disregarded, often at one's peril.


2. All Christians are called to play an active role in God's redemptive work. The activity required involves works of compassion, charity, generosity, and various other types of constructive, positive activities. Specific details of how these virtues are to be appropriated and managed are given by the Holy Spirit.

[ see MATTHEW 5 through 7; EPHESIANS 4 through 5; JAMES -the entire book ]

3. The single most important resolution a Christian must make is to never, ever give up the pursuit of a righteous, compassionate life, no matter the consequences. Even if threatened with persecution unto death, a Christian must determine to never compromise on his beliefs and his lifestyle. A partially lived, or incompletely lived Christian life is not going to impress God, nor is it going to be adequate for eternal life. Only a life lived in complete dedication to God, from the moment of salvation to the end, is a life deemed one worthy of the reward of eternal life.

[ see MATTHEW 10, ROMANS 2, HEBREWS - the entire book]

Now, it is important to note that the process of salvation is NOT one of perfectionism and legalism. It is not about following a code of conduct perfectly, or even at all. Nor is it about the avoidance of making mistakes. As a matter of fact, one will make plenty of mistakes, for a variety of reasons, as they pursue the straight and narrow path of salvation. However, the only mistake that will only ultimately count against you is a refusal to persevere in your pursuit of God and a righteous life. In other words, the only real sin that is disqualifying towards eternal life is the sin of giving up.

Next time: perils in the path of the process of salvation.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Denomination vs. Local Church

A great article/commentary on the Internet Monk blog about local church vs. denominations. Here is a little extract:

The local Church that you belong to is not the local denominational congregation that you attend, important though that congregation is. Biblically speaking, the local Church that you belong to is defined more by geographical than denominational or confessional lines. The local denominational congregation that you attend might be more closely analogous to a Gentile Christian group in Antioch in the first century. Such a group is part of the local Church, but it is not the local Church. The local Church includes Jews and Greeks, male and female, slave and free. In our situations, the local Church will probably include Catholics and Protestants, Presbyterians and Baptists, Methodists and Pentecostals.

In light of this, we should beware of giving too much loyalty to denominations. The work of God in our areas far exceeds the work that He is doing through our particular denomination. We need to become more concerned about the progress of this larger work than we are about the progress of the cause of our denominations. We need to become more committed to the larger cause of God in our area than we are to preserving our particular denomination’s identity.

SOURCE: Internet Monk: Riffs: 06:16:07: Alastair Roberts on “The Denominational Church”: 16 JUNE 2007

Read the entire article, it's worth it.

<>< TM

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

If God is dead, then why are they still trying to kill him?

The following is an excerpt of a review of the book "God is Not Great" by Christopher Hitchens. The review was written by an atheist:

By the time I finished Christopher Hitchens’ new book about his life-long struggle with the various Gods in his life, “God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything,” I was sick of it. God, religion, the book, and mostly Hitchens himself. It is the book of a smart ass, an enfant terrible, a book of a man who has been everywhere and found no resting place.

It is made up of junk history, junk scholarship and finally turns out to be junk apostasy. The subtitle gives the essential clue to the book (and probably to Hitchens himself). The book is too personal and the poison is in the eye of the beholder. It is a pitiless screed that is unrelenting and eventually tiresome.

It is difficult to understand why he wrote the book since there is nothing in it that hasn’t been written before in the long history of atheism. All of his criticisms are well known and obvious—organized religion has encouraged killing of millions in wars; it has fostered ignorance and superstition which results in unhealthy practices; it has fought reason, science, and modern thought; it is full of inconsistencies, errors, impossibilities and irrational assertions all in the service of superstition. Others have written about all these issues more thoughtfully and in more depth. Hitchens’ main contribution is that he wants to destroy all religions and the idea of God altogether.
Click on the source link to read the whole thing:

SOURCE: Horsefeathers; SCORECARD: GOD 1---HITCHENS 0; 11 June 2007

<>< TM

Saturday, June 02, 2007

A Prairie Home Gettysburg Address

One radio show I really enjoy is Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion. And, like most listeners, the part I like best is his little 15 minute monologue about his fictional home town: Lake Wobegon.

This past Saturday's broadcast featured a very nice Memorial Day tribute, with Garrison Keillor reciting the entire Gettysburg Address by memory, a fitting speech for Memorial Day, as it was given originally by Abraham Lincoln as a memorial for the soldiers who died during the battle of Gettysburg.

I you have iTunes, you can subscribe to the "Lake Wobegon" portion of the Prairie Home Companion broadcast, as a podcast, by clicking here and following the instructions. Those of you who don't want iTunes on your computer can use the free "Juice" podcast software instead. I use both.

<>< TM

Monday, May 28, 2007

Remembering those who served

Remembering those who've served, and who paid the ultimate price. They are the true heroes.

<>< TM

Saturday, May 26, 2007


An excellent little site about the Civil War battle of Gettysburg can be found on's web site. There's a few interesting articles, including one on Joshua L. Chamberlain, the hero of Gettysburg.

Also there is a descion-tree game that allows you to play an alternate strategy of attack from the Confederate point-of-view. Very interesting little simulation.

<>< TM

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Praise for our soldiers

What do journalists from other countries think about our American soldiers after an experience embedding with them in Iraq? Well, here's the opinion of a Spanish journalist that appeared in today's Wall Street Journal:

While I was at the Combined Press Information Center in Baghdad on my recent trip to Iraq, a pair of Spanish journalists--a newspaper reporter and a photojournalist--walked in, fresh from their embed with the 1-4 Cavalry of the First Infantry Division (the unit with which I embedded only days later). They had spent two weeks amongst the troops there, living and going on missions with them, including house-to-house searches and seizures, and their impressions of these soldiers were extremely clear.

"Absolutely amazing," said David Beriain, the reporter (and the one who spoke English), said of the young Cavalry troops. "In Spain, it is embarrassing--our soldiers are ashamed to be in the army. These young men--and they seem so young!--are so proud of what they do, and do it so well, even though it is dangerous and they could very easily be killed." Mr. Beriain explained that the company he had been embedded with had lost three men in the span of six days while he was there--one to a sniper and two to improvised explosive devices, both of which had blown armored Humvees into the air and flipped them onto their roofs. Despite this, he said, and despite some of the things they might have said in the heat of the moment after seeing another comrade die, the soldiers' resolve and morale was unshaken in the long term, and they remained committed to carrying out their mission to the best of their ability for the duration of their tours in Iraq.

It was in the process of performing that mission, of coping with the loss of loved ones, and of just being themselves as American soldiers that these young men were able to win over the admiration and affection of more than one journalist who had arrived in their midst harboring a less-than-positive opinion of the Iraq war, and of those who were tasked with prosecuting it.

"I love those guys," Mr. Beriain said, looking wistfully out the window of the media cloister in the Green Zone that is the Combined Press Information Center. "From the first time you go kick a door with them, they accept you--you're one of them. I've even got a 'family photo' with them" to remember them by. "I really hated to leave."

SOURCE: The Wall Street Journal: 23 MAY 2007: 'I Love Those Guys'

HAT TIP: PajamasMedia

<>< TM

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

atheism is dead.

Joe Hinman at the Metacrock blog has posted an excellent piece on the Last Days of Outmoded Atheism. His point: atheism is not a viable world view because it's sole purpose is to undermine and eliminate theistic world views. It has no viable purpose or goal other than that. The problem with such a negative goal is self evident: nature abhors a vacuum, especially a vacuum of ideas.

Here is a long excerpt from his article:

Atheism can't accept a place in the spectrum alongside other ideas because it has to destroy religion. It has to be base itself upon the outmoded concept that one idea is true and its contrary is false. Now Christianity believe this too. As I say, it's both good and bad for Christianity. But Christianity can survive in a version that liberalizes itself enough to be part of the mix. It has its' special qualities that others don't have and that's its appeal but it can also allow others to have their views. Atheism can't allow any idea but one, hate religion. Atheism depends upon the myth of a golden progress into the shining Godless future where science has prevailed and destroyed religion, leaving it behind as a failed adaptation. That myth is over. That myth is the myth of modernism and has been left behind in the dust.

Of course fundamentalism will have to go. That may be on the rise now the new atheist fundamentalists are an attempt to join the ranks of the postmodern fundies, but it wont succeed because it's major myth is opposed to the paradigm of the world today. Atheism has to destroy religion, it has to dissolve it, it has to undermine it or it can't exist. The existence of atheism as anything other just a lack of belief, which is far from all it is, is predicated upon hatred of religion and the need to demonstrate one's superiority over religious people. This is not an age for that. This is the age of tolerance, diversity, of equality among all ideas. The Irish gave up their passion for a nationalistic Northern Ireland because they realized they would rather go shopping than blow things up. A liberalized Christianity can fit into the diversified mixture of a postmodern social construct, but atheism can't by its nature and its definition.

<>< TM

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Consciousness: Mind, Spirit, Brain.

At the DOXA website, there is an excellent (and extremely technical) article about mind/body dualism entitled "Consciousness: Mind, Spirit, Brain."

So what's the big deal about mind/body dualism? Athiests insist that the distinction between our bodies (matter) and our minds (spirit) is false, that our minds and bodies are one in the same, and there is no such things as a "mind" or "spirit" that is distinct from our body.

However, science has been unable to prove that they are one and the same, and most interestingly, all evidence points to the FACT that there is a true distinction between body and mind.

The article is very technical, and there are some spelling and grammar mistakes that makes it even more difficult, but it makes for a fascinating read.

<>< TM

Thursday, May 10, 2007

God, the Vatican, and the Internet

Very interesting (and long) interview with Sister Judith Zoebelein, who is in charge of the Vatican's web site. Very interesting interview.

From time to time, I will be posting some things this summer, but just short, quick blurbs. For the most part, they will be posts of things I wish to keep track of for later reference and research.

<>< TM

Thursday, May 03, 2007

CPU Benchmarks

If you're like me, it's very, very easy to get lost in the maze of PC CPU performance, and how one type of processor compares to another.

Well, I finally found a chart that benchmarks each and every CPU made by AMD and Intel for the PC and server markets. It's CPU Benchmarks available at PassMark software.

<>< TM

Monday, April 30, 2007

new blog: fish wars

Wendee Holtcamp, a Christian bohemian evolutionist and author has a new blog worth checking out: The Fish Wars. It is a commentary on Christian faith and and science.

I've always been fascinated by the debate between science and religion, and have done some interesting research on it, as well as looking at the debate from a philosophical perspective. Let me state a few facts about this debate for the record:

1. Christianity has done far more to help foster science and research than it has to thwart it. While there are those who love to hold up examples like the persecution of Galileo, it should be noted that when major paradigms of thought are overthrown, there is often a backlash. This is not just a science vs. religion issue, but even within the scientific community, perhaps especially within the scientific community, there can be tremendous resistance to new, revolutionary ideas and theories. (Those who have done a bit of research into the history of science know what I'm talking about.) No where on earth has science and technology flourished more bountifully than in Protestant Christian nations, especially those of the former British empire. The reason for this is that freedom of speech and thought, long supported by Protestant Christians, have allowed paradigm shifting ideas to develop without too much fear of retribution. (Though that fear can never be completely eliminated, nor should it...)

2. The modern debate between science and religion is really just a one-horse buggy: that buggy being evolution. Christians, especially conservative Christians, are very suspicious of evolution, not because it thwarts the creation account of Genesis, but because it's biggest proponents have been militant atheists, starting with Thomas Huxley, a.k.a. "Darwin's Bulldog." (Note: early atheists like Huxley and famous lawyer Clarence Darrow used the term "agnostic" rather than "atheists" mostly for public relations purposes. Upon close examination of both men's thoughts and world views, they were both militant atheists in all but name.)

3. With the exception of evolution, Christians, even very conservative ones, have no problems with other scientific disciplines. For example, there is no backlash against chemistry or physics, or even most aspects of biology. It is evolution alone, and those who promote it that raises the suspicions of many Christians, let alone people of other faiths. Even young earth creationists often resort to scientific explanations for their beliefs!

4. This may surprise many of you, but evolution is far from a proven fact. There are still a lot of biological problems that evolution does a poor job explaining. You will not find much about this on the web, but such issues are discussed and studied in academic circles. One of the problems that has has a bit of public exposure is the problem of stasis. The fossil record, surprisingly, has little if any truly transitional forms. Often the earliest instance of a creature will change very little from it's last instance, even when hundreds of millions of years are involved. Also, almost all of the animals that exist on earth today have very close, if not identical ancestors that go back to the days of the dinosaurs. If evolution is true, why is there so much evidence of stasis in the fossil record, and so little evidence of transitional forms? An attempt to solve this problem is the theory of "punctuated equalibrium" put forth buy Stephen J. Gould.

5. Evolution is not a repudiation of the Genesis creation account, nor is the Genesis account a repudiation of evolution. Genesis functions more like a parable than a journalistic account of what exactly happened at the moment of creation. Nor does evolution does not do way with the need for a creator, as there is still a need to explain origins of life and the universe. Evolution can give us a "how" but not a "why" answer to life itself.

6. The denial of evolution as an explanatory means for the origin of the species is not just a religious issue, there atheists who have problems with it as well, even atheistic scientists. Just like there are Christians who are in complete agreement with evolution.

7. While evolution is not a proven fact of history, it's negative impact on humanity certainly is, especially when you realize its philosophical and theological implications. The most evil regimes of the past 100 years, including Nazi Germany and various communist regimes were all completely in favor of evolution and it's implications, while usually being entirely opposed to religion in any form. However, even here in America, the science of eugenics (now mostly ignored) was a direct response to the ideas of evolution. Looking at history since the publication of Origin of the Species, one can be very hard pressed to find any beneficial effects it's ideas have had on humanity.

<>< TM

if you think you have problems...

There are some amazing people on this earth, who more than make up for those of us who are merely mediocre. Two such people are Rolland and Heidi Baker of Iris Ministries; a trans-denominational Christian ministry with a charismatic flavor. They have dedicated their lives to helping the poorest of the poor: the citizens of Mozambique, Africa. As just one part of their ministry, they run an orphanage caring for 6,000 children!!!

I'm going to reprint an e-mail newsletter that Rolland sent out this past March, to give you an idea of the work they do in Africa in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a ministry of ultimate suffering, and tremendous miracles. If you would like to know the lastest about Roland and Heidi, I highly recommend their blog.

I also highly recommend supporting this ministry any way you can. Many people I know have gone on short-term mission trips to Mozambique, and they all come back testifying to the reality of the miracles, and the amazing work that Iris Ministries does on a daily basis.

Here's the March e-mail from Rolland:


Floods of revival
Rolland and Heidi Baker
Iris Ministries, Inc.
Pemba, Mozambique
6 March 2007

Photo gallery/refugee camp photos:

Morrumbala, Saturday, 3 March 2007

Heidi and I have one more day in the flood zone before we fly our Cessna back to Pemba. So we are up early at the World Vision compound in Morrumbala, loading our Land Rovers and big trucks for a trip to more refugee camps. We would especially like to get to the flooded Shire River and paddle our way in dugout canoes to people stranded on isolated islands.

Our little convoy heads east on a dirt road through the pristine African bush. The mountains and skies are in their full glory, wild, clear and beautiful. Brilliant cumulus clouds perfectly accent the deep blue heavens overhead, hiding a dark fury that has been unleashed on this land for two months. Heavy rains and cyclones have pounded southeast Africa until now over 300,000 people in this area have been forced from their houses and have lost everything.

A thousand feet above the flood plain, the countryside around Morrumbala is poor, but lush, green and relatively dry. We are racing and swerving over the rutted, winding road to make time. We raise clouds of dust, climb hills, dip into valleys, wave to children in villages, and press on to the infamous river.

But suddenly we encounter a camp we didn't expect. It is huge. We can't just drive by, so we pull off the road and stop, surrounded by a desperate crowd. They find out who we are, and they are thrilled. Many of them are already in our churches, and so we start singing and worshiping even as we discuss the situation with their leaders.

These people haven't eaten in weeks. The rising waters forced them from their houses along the river plain, and they slogged on foot through muddy swamps until they reached high ground and gathered in huge camps. When they arrived they had nothing but the ragged clothes on their backs. The people literally sat on the ground in pouring rain, thunder and lightning with no shelter, food, or visible hope. Children were sick, crying and screaming. Some ran naked like animals. The desperate tried to eat nasty roots and worms out of the ground. Skin and eye infections, intestinal disorders, malaria and an array of other health problems began to spread.

After some days the people began building primitive little huts out of nearby sticks and grass, and now there is a sea of these huts for the six thousand refugees in this one camp (see photos!). But still the people sit and sleep on the dirt with absolutely nothing -- no flashlights, toilets, CD players, sleeping bags, cots, Coleman lanterns, tea kettles, bug spray, fans, water bottles or hot dogs. They just wait
-- tired, hot, dirty, hungry and sick. Our visiting doctor, Koos Le Roux from near Cape Town, begins to treat cases, and says he's never seen such a needy medical situation.

While some of us discuss food logistics, we preach too, and pray for the sick. Terry Inman and Rodney Hogue, pastors from the San Francisco Bay Area, flew immediately here to help us minister, and they passionately pour their hearts out with Heidi and me. No one resists the Gospel. Everyone is eagerly listening to every word, responding to every call, wanting prayer for everything. Many already know Jesus, as we have probably several thousand churches in this one province, but now they understand all the more how much they need Him.

We brought tons of rice, beans, blankets, plastic tarp and other supplies, but not enough for the whole camp at once. Organizers are afraid if we feed only part of the camp, there will be rioting and bloodshed. But no other supplies have come to this camp yet, and we just can't take the food away. We are assured other organizations will bring additional food immediately.

Meanwhile, in the hot sun and under trees all around, Jesus is saving and healing. Four deaf people hear this morning. Our own Mozambican pastors are praying throughout the crowd. We always have good news, we tell the people. Jesus knows your suffering. Through all of this we will seek Him more, and He will reveal Himself more than we ever thought He would.

We have to go, but will be back with much more. We only made it to the edge of the actual flood waters, and never got to an island, but Jesus knew what we had to do.

Two days later in Pemba

Three hours' flight to the north, we are preparing more teams to drive south and help in the relief effort. The poor of our own church in Pemba pour their hearts out in generosity, some giving up months of salaries and their humble but most valuable possessions. As our first sketchy reports get out, churches and friends are responding from around the world. As a relief organization, Iris Ministries is just a little child with a lunch to give, but we are so pleased to give it and see what Jesus can do.

We learn that there are more than thirteen refugee camps near Morrumbala along the Shire River, which flows into the Zambezi from Malawi. Many more camps of refugees have formed along the Zambezi and other rivers that have also flooded. These camps are remote and very difficult to access by road, and some can only be reached by helicopter. Two thousand people a day are pouring into them.

We were persuaded by disaster relief personnel that we should take complete care of one camp of nearly three thousand, instead of trying to help many camps in some smaller way, dividing and confusing the work of different aid agencies. However, we have received news that no further food and supplies were delivered by anyone else to the camp we last visited, and that in fact many other camps are not expected to receive any aid at all from anyone unless Iris can respond. Now we are being told that many thousands of lives are dependent on Iris supplying the necessary relief and filling the aid vacuum in the months to come.

In the big picture, 100,000 acres of crops have been destroyed at the height of the growing season, and this follows last year's major crop failure due to severe drought. And still this is only the beginning of March, and weather forecasters are warning of more flooding until the rainy season is over.

At the moment, the Zambezi River has subsided, but is still past the flood stage. The discharge of water from the Cahora Bassa dam on the river has been reduced to one-third of the 8,000 cubic meters per second that it was releasing at one point when it was in danger of structural failure. When Heidi and I arrived in our plane several weeks after the initial emergency, the flood waters had receded some, but the land left behind was still soggy, swampy and unusable.

Following the Good Shepherd's example, we have always tried to set a pattern of going to most remote and forgotten areas we can, and now in this crisis the result is that our people are looking to God and to us for help that is not forthcoming from other directions. A wave of humanity in Mozambique is again left without any hope but Jesus. And again we are in a position to participate in the building of the Kingdom in the most unlikely places, and to see another level of revival that we could not have predicted or imagined. We don't know yet all that God will do in this country among our Mozambican people, but He surprises us every day. Reports of miracles are flowing in from the camps. Four blind people saw and two deaf people heard today. Our pastors and visitors are being filled with new energy. The gifts of the Spirit are being stirred up. More revival than ever is brewing. The word is getting out, and the church is coming together. May we see His glory in the faces of the redeemed in the Zambezi Valley. As one eleven-year-old in America prophesied, "I have to tell you what the Lord told me. He said that the rains will cease, but the flood has just begun. Mozambique is a community cup, and all who drink from there will be saved!"


We thank with all our hearts everyone who has responded so far, including churches and ministries who have already taken amazing offerings. May Jesus multiply all that you give in an unprecedented way, and return to you vastly more than you anticipate!

As always, donations can be sent to our U.S. support address, P.O. Box 493995, Redding, CA 96049-3995, USA, or to our offices in Canada and the U.K. as listed at the end of this newsletter. Additional inquiries concerning involvement with our relief effort can be sent by email to Mary Chico at , or you can telephone her at our Redding office, 1-530-255-2048 (cell: 1-530-921-0253).

In Mozambique you will be directed to our coordinator, Angela Olson, at , tel: +258-82-552-2944, or Teisa Miller at , tel: +258-82-916-9280. Their assistant Janiko is at
+258-82-420-2825. If necessary regarding transportation and other
details they will refer you to Betty Johnson at ,
tel: +258-82-886-4700. In the Morrumbala area of Zambezia Province our relief coordinator is Herbert Barbutti at ,
tel: +258-82-708-7885, and our Mozambican staff member Carlos at
+258-82-025-8650. South of the Zambezi our relief coordinator is Claudia
Bernhardt in Dondo near Beira, at , tel:

All inquiries regarding shipments to Mozambique can be directed to Gordon Haggerty at , tel: +258-82-568-4183.

May you all be hugely encouraged by the power, wisdom, love and joy of the Lord!

In Jesus, Rolland

From Heidi:

Thank you for praying for us during this difficult time of flooding and cyclones. We are feeding many thousands of people each day in various camps in Caia and Zambezia. We are also rebuilding churches in Cabo Delgado that were washed away in the floods.

I just finished interviews with several journalists from the Mozambique national radio station. As I shared with them about the needs and our desire to help, they were visibly touched. Please pray the Lord will use these interviews in mighty ways!

We are overwhelmed with gratitude for people who have been helping us "for such a time as this." The Lord spoke to me from John 6 that Iris Ministries is an example of the boy with his bread and fish. We have handed Jesus our lunch and He is multiplying it for the multitudes. Tens of thousands of people have given their hearts to Jesus in these last weeks! The deaf have heard, the blind have seen and the poor have heard the Good News. I don't think I have ever seen such suffering and hunger as I encountered in the camps in Zambezia. We thank God every day for your love and concern for the poor.

Please pray for the favor we need with the government of Mozambique as we are having a difficult time receiving the containers duty free. We have just received a phone call today telling us that we passed the first phase of approval from the government's emergency coordination commission, and we are awaiting the national director's approval now.

Much love in Jesus,
Heidi Baker

Rolland and Heidi Baker
Iris Ministries, Inc.
PO Box 275
Pemba, Mozambique

U.S. office for mail, support and information:
Iris Ministries, Inc.
PO Box 493995
Redding, CA 96049-3995, USA
Voicemail: 1-213-330-0293

Iris Ministries Canada
3092 Shannon Crescent
Oakville, ON L6L 6B4
(905) 847-7749; fax (905) 847-7931
Contact Janis Chevreau, Trustee

Iris Ministries (UK) Ltd
PO Box 351
Tonbridge, Kent TN9 1WQ

Internet: (newsletters, photos, Rolland and Heidi's blog, etc.) (admin, travel schedule, support info, missions school, applications, products, etc.)


<>< TM

Sunday, April 29, 2007

peggy noonan sounds in over our increasingly crass culture

Those who have read my "sympathy for the devil" article knows that I do not like the negative influence that mass media, especially televsion, is having on the American culture. For the one or two programs that might be held up as shining examples of all that's good and right in the USA, there's a hundred that make you wonder why anyone would waste there time with TV.

Now, Peggy Noonan sounds in with the same concern I have, and that is the fear factor that television is bringing to the lives of children (let alone adults!). Here's an excerpt from here recent column in the Wall Street Journal (do yourself a favor and subscribe--best journalism in the USA is in the pages of the Journal.)

For 50 years in America, whenever the subject has turned to what our culture presents, the bright response has been, "You don't like it? Change the channel." But there is no other channel to change to, no safe place to click to. Our culture is national. The terrorizing of children is all over.

Click. Smug and menacing rappers.

Click. "This is Bauer. He's got a nuke and he's going to take out Los Angeles."

Click. Rosie grabs her crotch. "Eat this."

Click. "Every day 2,000 children are reported missing . . ."

Click. Don Imus's face.

Click. "Eyewitnesses say the shooter then lined the students up . . ."

Click. An antismoking campaign on local New York television. A man growls out how he felt when they found his cancer. He removes a bib and shows us the rough red hole in his throat. He holds a microphone to it to deliver his message.

Don't smoke, he says.

This is what TV will be like in Purgatory.

It's not only roughness and frightening things in our mass media, it's politics too. Daily alarms on global warming with constant videotape of glaciers melting and crashing into the sea. Anchors constantly asking, "Is there still time to save the Earth? Scientists warn we must move now." And international terrorism. "Is the Port of Newark safe, or a potential landing point for deadly biological weapons?"

I would hate to be a child now.

SOURCE: The Wall Street Journal: 27 APRIL 2007: We're Scaring Our Children to Death

So would I. We live in a culture of violence and fear that is 99% the creation of our mass media. It doesn't have to be that way, but sensationalism sells, and fear mongering is the best sort of sensationalism.

HAT TIP: Relapsed Catholic

<>< TM

Thursday, April 26, 2007

sympathy for the devil

Well, it's been a little while since that fateful day when a young and very angry Korean resident alien shot-up Virginia Tech, firing something on the order of 170+ rounds of ammunition during a romp through Norris hall, unleashing death and destruction like some sort of devil incarnate.

Let me state for the record that this I deplore and condemn the actions of Cho Seung-Hui, and find it to be a work of despicable evil. His actions cannot be justified, nor admired by any reasonable human being. But then again, this was not the act of a reasonable human being, at least not from my perspective.

My interest is the Virginia Tech shooting is simple: I don't want to ever see this happen again, and one of the best ways to understand how to prevent this is to understand what caused the killer to do what he did.

While everyone and his brother are throwing the "psychopath" label at Cho, I hesitate to do so for a very simple reason: it does not really explain anything.

While it has been discovered that Cho was diagnosed as being mentally ill, there does not seem to be any information as to what he was diagnosed with. According to information that I've seen, it seems that Cho was extremely depressed and suicidal. Also, it seems that he was diagnosed with autism when he was a child, which is something that does not go away when one gets older.

Autism often has other psychological disorders that go along with it. Hence, Cho was probably dealing with more than just autism. But please don't mistake autism for being retarded: children and adults with autism can be very intelligent, and many, with proper help, can lead fairly normal lives. But getting proper help is the key.

I have a feeling that Cho Seung-Hui never got the help and support that those who suffer with autism need, especially when they are young. It is also a fact that Cho was regularly on the wrong end of quite a bit of bullying and name calling when he was young, which is not unusual at all for those who suffer from mental illness. Take from a parent: children can be rather evil and demonic when it comes to bullying and mistreating other kids, especially those who are weaker or a bit strange. Children are not born civilized, they are not nice people.

Bullying and name-calling is difficult to handle when you are mentally sound, but when you are under the burden of something like autism, it can be very, very difficult to deal with. Autistic people, frustrated with their inability to fit in or even have the control of their bodies and minds like normal people do, can easily get worked up into a rage, and they can hurt others. This is nothing new. They simply do not have the self-control nor the ability to deal with conflict like the rest of us, anyone who has worked with autistic people/children can testify to that.

I'm one of the few people who was glad to hear that Cho left a manifesto, small portions of which MSNBC has made public. (I'm also probably the only person who would like to examine the entire manifesto, and not just snippets that MSNBC feels we should be allowed to see.)

When Cho expresses himself in his own words, there are three things that are very obvious: he was very angry, he was very depressed, and he had a difficult time expressing himself verbally. It is also evident that he was an intelligent person, proven by his choice of firearms (Glock & Walther), his use of technology, and the way he was able to plan his mission of vengeance. He even made time to go to the post office and overnight a package to MSNBC, in between killing people.

For Cho, the killings were not an act of terrorism or the mad ravings of a lunatic, rather he believed that he was avenging himself, along with all others in this life that end up on the wrong end of bullies and snobs. He mentions the persecution and bullying he was subject to, and explains quite clearly that he is now going to be doing a bit of bullying himself.

I myself can clearly remember a time when some little pipsqueak wanted to have some fun at my expense. At first I just tried to ignore the person, but that just seemed to encourage him all the more. I said nothing and did nothing in my defense, but he just continued to carry on. Then something in me just had enough, and I grabbed the little squirt by the neck, and proceeded to choke him, which had the immediate effect of stopping his increasingly insulting monologue. While I did not break his neck, nor choke him to death, I very easily could have, and was very much tempted to do so. Needless to say, after I put the fear of God into him, he never felt felt impressed to ridicule me again.

I bring that up to say this: people can be ridiculed and insulted into violence, even if they themselves are not violent by nature. Do this to someone who is having a hard enough time dealing with mental illness and flush with hormones, and you have the makings of one very angry, vengeful person, who will think nothing of killing his fellow man, and himself.

It was obvious that Cho was not just "picked on," but it is clear from the news reports and Cho's own writings that he was subject to constant ridicule and abuse, and was getting quite tired of it. He does not mention who is tormentors are by name, at least not in the information we have, but that many not be relevant.

What is relevant is that we live in a society and culture that glorifies those who kill for vengeance. We glorify all sorts of bad behavior, foul language, and rebellious attitudes. Then we all act very shocked and dismayed when someone actually acts out this behavior in public. Well, what did we expect? We reap what we sow, and Cho is just some of the first fruits of what is looking like a bumber crop.

Friedrich Nietzsche, no matter what you think of the man, was quite prophetic in his forsight in terms of seeing that the 20th century was going to be one of the most violent ever, thanks mainly to the increasing acceptance of a atheistic, nihilistic world view. After the past 100 years, you would think that such a world view would be tossed in the ash heap of history, but instead it has grown even stronger, even more bold, and it's already looking like the 21st century will make the 20th look like picnic in the park by comparison; especially since nuclear, chemical and biological weapons are within easy reach of even the lowiliest thug.

Cho, and those like him are a product of a culture than has grown increasingly narcissistic. It doesn't matter how poorly or badly we made Cho feel, it only matters that we made ourselves better by ridiculing him. Even in death, he cannot escape our collective ridicule and disdain.

Yes, I do condemn Cho's actions on that fateful April day at Virgina Tech, but I refrain from condemning Cho himself. Rather, I feel great sadness, both for him and those who were the object of his wrath.

But for those who were guilty of the systematic bullying of Cho, for them I have no sympathy at all. The earth would be a much better place without them.

May God have mercy on Cho's soul.

"Not by wrath does one kill, but by laughter."
Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra


Monday, April 23, 2007

lawyers, guns, money

A new blog I found while looking for other things is Lawyers, Guns and Money. I especially enjoyed the Sunday battleship posts, but lots of interesting articles for the intrepid blog reader.

<>< TM

Sunday, April 22, 2007

"Before Deadly Rage, a Life Consumed by a Troubling Silence"

Posting for later research and comment:

The NY Times has a very well written, descriptive account of the Virginia Tech massacre from the killer's point of view. It goes back to his early childhood. Very interesting piece: New York Times: 22 APRIL 2007: Before Deadly Rage, a Life Consumed by a Troubling Silence.

HAT TIP: Drudge Report

<>< TM

Saturday, April 21, 2007

"What We Know"

Posting for later research and comment:

MSNBC has an entire web site, devoid of banner ads, that is an information warehouse on the Virginia Tech shootings.


<>< TM

Friday, April 20, 2007

Va. Tech shooter did not talk much as a child, relatives say

for later research and comment...

Cho left South Korea with his family in 1992 to seek a better life in the United States, Kim said. The family never visited their homeland, and Kim said he did not recognize his nephew when his picture appeared on television as the shooter.

"I am devastated," he said between heavy sighs. "I don't know what I can tell the victims' families and the U.S. citizens. I sincerely apologize ... as a family member."

Cho's parents have receiving official protection since the shooting, South Korea's ambassador to Washington said today.

"We've confirmed that the parents are being safely protected by U.S. investigative authorities," Ambassador Lee Tae-sik told MBC Radio.

Lee said U.S. authorities declined to say where the parents were "because they move from place to place everyday."

The parents had been working at a dry cleaners in suburban Washington.

In South Korea, they ran a small book store in Seoul, Kim said. The family lived in a two-room apartment no larger than 430 square feet.

"They had trouble making ends meet in Korea. The book store they had didn't turn much profit," the uncle said.

SOURCE: 20 APRIL 2007: Va. Tech shooter did not talk much as a child, relatives say

I highly encourage everyone to read the full article. Very interesting.

<>< TM

"Va. Gunman's Family Feels Hopeless, Lost"

Posting for later research and comment:

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) - The family of Virginia Tech gunman Seung-Hui Cho told The Associated Press on Friday that they feel "hopeless, helpless and lost," and "never could have envisioned that he was capable of so much violence." "He has made the world weep. We are living a nightmare," said a statement issued by Cho's sister, Sun-Kyung Cho, on the family's behalf.

It was the Chos' first public comment since the 23-year-old student killed 32 people and committed suicide Monday in the deadliest shooting rampage in modern U.S. history.

Raleigh, N.C., lawyer Wade Smith provided the statement to the AP after the Cho family reached out to him. Smith said the family would not answer any questions, and neither would he.

"Our family is so very sorry for my brother's unspeakable actions. It is a terrible tragedy for all of us," said Sun-Kyung Cho, a 2004 Princeton University graduate who works as a contractor for a State Department office that oversees American aid for Iraq.

"We pray for their families and loved ones who are experiencing so much excruciating grief. And we pray for those who were injured and for those whose lives are changed forever because of what they witnessed and experienced," she said. "Each of these people had so much love, talent and gifts to offer, and their lives were cut short by a horrible and senseless act."
SOURCE: 20 APRIL 2007: Va. Gunman's Family Feels Hopeless, Lost

HAT TIP: Drudge Report

<>< TM

Thursday, April 19, 2007

picked on, pushed around and laughed at

Posted for later research and commentary....

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) - Long before he snapped, Virginia Tech gunman Cho Seung-Hui was picked on, pushed around and laughed at over his shyness and the strange way he talked when he was a schoolboy in the Washington suburbs, former classmates say.

Chris Davids, a Virginia Tech senior who graduated from Westfield High School in Chantilly, Va., with Cho in 2003, recalled that the South Korean immigrant almost never opened his mouth and would ignore attempts to strike up a conversation.

Once, in English class, the teacher had the students read aloud, and when it was Cho's turn, he just looked down in silence, Davids recalled. Finally, after the teacher threatened him with an F for participation, Cho started to read in a strange, deep voice that sounded "like he had something in his mouth," Davids said.

"As soon as he started reading, the whole class started laughing and pointing and saying, `Go back to China,'" Davids said.

The high school classmates' accounts add to the psychological portrait that is beginning to take shape, and could shed light on Cho's state of mind in the video rant he mailed to NBC in the middle of his rampage Monday at Virginia Tech.

He shot 32 people to death and committed suicide in the deadliest one- man shooting rampage in modern U.S. history.
SOURCE: 19 APRIL 2007: Va. Tech Shooter Was Laughed At

HAT TIP: Drudge Report

<>< TM

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Cho and "Oldboy"

Another post for later research and comment:

The inspiration for perhaps the most inexplicable image in the set that Cho Seung-Hui mailed to NBC news on Monday may be a movie from South Korea that won the Gran Prix prize at Cannes Film Festival in 2004.

The poses in the two images are similar, and the plot of the movie, “Oldboy,” seems dark enough to merit at least some further study. Following is The Times’s plot summary:

The film centers on a seemingly ordinary businessman, Dae-su (the terrific Choi Min-sik), who, after being mysteriously imprisoned, goes on an extensive, exhausting rampage, seeking answers and all manner of bloody revenge.

SOURCE: NEW YORK TIMES: THE LEDE: 18 APRIL 2007: Updates on Virginia Tech

<>< TM

"Gunman sent package to NBC News"

I'm not surprised...this post is for later comment and reference....
Updated: 7 minutes ago

Sometime after he killed two people in a Virginia university dormitory but before he slaughtered 30 more in a classroom building Monday morning, Cho Seung-Hui mailed NBC News a large package, including photographs and videos, boasting that “when the time came, I did it. I had to.”

SOURCE: MSNBC: 18 APRIL 2007: Gunman sent package to NBC News


A vulgar, but interesting comment from the Little Green Footballs blog:

#33 Pawn of the Oppressor 4/18/2007 2:27:44 pm PDT9 JammieWearingFool

Did he ask for Olbermann?


Seriously, this is fascinating. Suicide massacreists now distributing "multimedia manifestos" directly to the press, a la Osama, almost in real time as they commit their murders? Think about that for a second. This kid killed, took a minute to make a statement, and then left his dorm to kill again. About the only way this could get any crazier is if he had taken a streaming webcam with him, or posted cell phone videos of his handiwork to Youtube while he was reloading.

This is the blood-drinking Drive-By Media's wet dream.

SOURCE: Little Green Footballs: 18 APRIL 2007: VT Killer Contacted NBC News (Comment #33)
<>< TM

...not so evil Knievel

I'm old enough to remember the glory years of Evel Knievel, an extremely famous motor cycle stunt man who jumped over trucks, cars and buses with his motorcycle, back in the late 60's and early 70's. His most famous stunt, however, was an attempt to jump over Idaho's Snake River Canyon in a rocket powered "motorcycle". (Looked more like a rocket than a motorcycle!) After the failure, and stupidity of that stunt, Evel's star started to set, and most of us forgot about him.

Well, Evel is back in the news, but for a stunt I would not have predicted in a billion years: he led several hundred people to Christ while giving the testimony of his conversion at the famous Crystal Cathedral in California. It was a small scale, but very real REVIVAL meeting!

Here's an excerpt from an article on the Christianity Today website:

On Palm Sunday, hundreds responded to Robert "Evel" Knievel's testimony by asking to be baptized on the spot at Crystal Cathedral. Speaking alongside the Rev. Robert H. Schuller, Knievel told the congregation in Orange County, California, how he had refused for 68 years to accept Jesus Christ as Lord. He believed in God, but he couldn't walk away from the gold and the gambling and the booze and the women.

"I don't know why I fought it so hard," he said. "I just did."

But Knievel knew people were praying for him, including his daughter's church, his ex-wife's church, and the hundreds of people who wrote letters urging him to believe. And then something indescribable happened during Daytona Bike Week this March.

"I don't know what in the world happened. I don't know if it was the power of the prayer or God himself, but it just reached out, either while I was driving or walking down the sidewalk or sleeping, and it just—the power of God in Jesus just grabbed me. … All of a sudden, I just believed in Jesus Christ. I did, I believed in him! … I rose up in bed and, I was by myself, and I said, 'Devil, Devil, you bastard you, get away from me. I cast you out of my life.' … I just got on my knees and prayed that God would put his arms around me and never, ever, ever let me go."

SOURCE: Christianity Today: 13 APRIL 2007: Evel Overcome With Good

HAT TIP: Maurice Smith @ The Parousia Network

<>< TM

theodicy quote of the week

"When a prophet is accepted and deified, his message is lost. The prophet is only useful so long as he is stoned as a public nuisance calling us to repentance, disturbing our comfortable routines, breaking our respectable idols, shattering our sacred conventions" (A. G. Gardiner as quoted by Arthur Wallis, "In The Day of Thy Power").

HAT TIP: Maurice Smith @ The Parousia Network

<>< TM

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

"Richard McBeef"

Again, posted for later research and comment: the alleged plays of Cho Seung-Hui: Richard McBeef and Mr. Brownstone.

A note from the person who provided the copies of these plays:

AOL News has obtained two plays a classmate says were written by Cho Seung-Hui. Ian MacFarlane, the former classmate and current AOL employee, provided us with the plays. A note from Mr. MacFarlane and links to the works appear below.

What happened yesterday:

When I first heard about the multiple shootings at Virginia Tech yesterday, my first thought was about my friends, and my second thought was "I bet it was Seung Cho."

Cho was in my playwriting class last fall, and nobody seemed to think much of him at first. He would sit by himself whenever possible, and didn't like talking to anyone. I don't think I've ever actually heard his voice before. He was just so quiet and kept to himself. Looking back, he fit the exact stereotype of what one would typically think of as a "school shooter" – a loner, obsessed with violence, and serious personal problems. Some of us in class tried to talk to him to be nice and get him out of his shell, but he refused talking to anyone. It was like he didn't want to be friends with anybody. One friend of mine tried to offer him some Halloween candy that she still had, but he slowly shook his head, refusing it. He just came to class every day and submitted his work on time, as I understand it.

A major part of the playwriting class was peer reviews. We would write one-act plays and submit them to an online repository called Blackboard for everyone in the class to read and comment about in class the next day. Typically, the students give their opinions about the plays and suggest ways to make it better, the professor gives his insights, then asks the author to comment about the play in class.

When we read Cho's plays, it was like something out of a nightmare. The plays had really twisted, macabre violence that used weapons I wouldn't have even thought of. Before Cho got to class that day, we students were talking to each other with serious worry about whether he could be a school shooter. I was even thinking of scenarios of what I would do in case he did come in with a gun, I was that freaked out about him. When the students gave reviews of his play in class, we were very careful with our words in case he decided to snap. Even the professor didn't pressure him to give closing comments.

After hearing about the mass shootings, I sent one of my friends a Facebook message asking him if he knew anything about Seung Cho and if he could have been involved. He replied: "dude that's EXACTLY what I was thinking! No, I haven't heard anything, but seriously, that was the first thing I thought when I heard he was Asian."

While I "knew" Cho, I always wished there was something I could do for him, but I couldn't think of anything. As far as notifying authorities, there isn't (to my knowledge) any system set up that lets people say "Hey! This guy has some issues! Maybe you should look into this guy!" If there were, I definitely would have tried to get the kid some help. I think that could have had a good chance of averting yesterday's tragedy more than anything.

While I was hesitant at first to release these plays (because I didn't know if there are laws against it), I had to put myself in the shoes of the average person researching this situation. I'd want to know everything I could about the killer to figure out what could drive a person to do something like this and hopefully prevent it in the future. Also, I hope this might help people start caring about others more no matter how weird they might seem, because if this was some kind of cry for attention, then he should have gotten it a long time ago.

As far as the victims go, as I was heading to bed last night, I heard that my good friend Stack (Ryan Clark) was one of the first confirmed dead. I didn't want to believe that I'd never get to talk to him again, and all I could think about was how much I could tell him how much his friendship meant to me. During my junior year, Ryan, another friend and I used to get breakfast on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Shultz Dining Hall, one of the cafeterias on campus, and it was always the highlight of my day. He could talk forever it seemed and always made us laugh. He was a good friend, not just to me, but to a lot of people, and I'll miss him a lot.

SOURCE: A0L News Bloggers: 17 APRIL 2007: Cho Seung-Hui's Plays

<>< TM

Cho Seung-Hui

From the Chicago Tribune, posted for later research and commentary:

The suspected gunman in the Virginia Tech shooting rampage, Cho Seung-Hui, was a troubled 23-year-old senior from South Korea who investigators believe left an invective-filled note in his dorm room, sources say.


Cho had shown recent signs of violent, aberrant behavior, according to an investigative source, including setting a fire in a dorm room and allegedly stalking some women.

A note believed to have been written by Cho was found in his dorm room that railed against "rich kids," "debauchery" and "deceitful charlatans" on campus.

Cho was an English major whose creative writing was so disturbing that he was referred to the school's counseling service, the Associated Press reported.

Professor Carolyn Rude, chairwoman of the university's English department, said she did not personally know the gunman. But she said she spoke with Lucinda Roy, the department's director of creative writing, who had Cho in one of her classes and described him as "troubled."

"There was some concern about him," Rude said. "Sometimes, in creative writing, people reveal things and you never know if it's creative or if they're describing things, if they're imagining things or just how real it might be. But we're all alert to not ignore things like this."

She said Cho was referred to the counseling service, but she said she did not know when, or what the outcome was.

Cho, from Centreville, Va., a rapidly growing suburb of Washington, D.C., came to the United States in 1992, an investigative source said. He was a legal permanent resident.

His family runs a dry cleaning business and he has a sister who attended Princeton University, according to the source.

Investigators believe Cho at some point had been taking medication for depression. They are examining Cho's computer for more evidence.
SOURCE: Chicago Tribune: 17 APRIL 2007: Sources: Virginia Tech gunman left note

HAT TIP: Drudge Report

<>< TM

Monday, April 16, 2007

e-mail from an eye-witness sent to a blogger

I've been following the news about the massacre at Virginia Tech using both the standard main stream media web sites and the blogging world.

Here's an interesting bit about the shootings you won't see on CNN: a student sent blogger Michelle Malkin an e-mail giving his eye-witness account of incident:

Dear Michelle,

I was in Norris Hall today when the shootings took place. I thought I'd give you my account in case you wanted more information.

It was just a regular day in class; the door was open and we heard a pop-pop-popping noise. Sounded like some kind of construction but it was getting disruptive so we went to close the door, and one of the girls stepped out in the hallway to see what it was. She saw the gun and ran back inside the room and slammed the door shut and we all got down on the floor.

We heard pretty much continuous shooting for the next minute or so, and I said, "Shouldn't we barricade the door," because we were sitting ducks with no way out inside that room if he opened the door. A couple more people floated the idea that "We need to barricade the door, NOW." But I was too scared to even move, much less move the teacher's desk.

Finally one of the guys in the front of the classroom was brave enough to get up and move the desk in front of the door to prevent outside entry. About twenty seconds later, the shooter rattled the doorknob trying to get in. When he couldn't get in he fired two shots through the door (single solid piece of wood) and left. We heard him go in to 206 (the room across the hall) and shoot the people in that room. If we hadn't put the barricade up when we did, I and all my classmates would be dead.

When the police arrived five minutes later we heard them call for him to surrender his weapon and some more, irregular shots. Another five minutes later the police knocked and yelled "Police!" and we yelled "How do we know?" and when a second voice confirmed that it was in fact police, we opened the door. An officer came in and told us to line up single file, take nothing with us (I grabbed my coat) and run out the door single file while another officer escorted us.

We entered the hallway. Blood, bullet casings, and empty pistol clips were everywhere; this was definitely the most horrifying sight of my entire life. We ran past quickly. A door to the stairwell had been opened and there was a massive trail of blood; we found out later that a class had tried to escape only to find that the monster had chained the doors shut before starting his rampage. They were all killed.

We all ran to a nearby building and stayed there until we could be processed, and that was the end of it. Thank you all for your concerns and prayers, but please mostly pray for those who were seriously injured or hurt today.

Also, let me say that the response from the campus, local, and state police was exemplary. Within five minutes of the first shots, police were gathering outside. In another ten minutes, the threat had been neutralized and the building was secure. My heartfelt gratitude goes out to the brave men and women who kept us safe today.

--Jacob Simmons
junior, Computer Engineering, Virginia Tech
SOURCE: Michelle Malkin: 16 APRIL 2007: Carnage at Virginia Tech; Readers point to campus ban on self-defense;
More video, plus student e-mail

<>< TM

"Abortion crisis as doctors refuse to perform surgery"

This is so bizarre I just had to post it--the UK paper "Independent" is reporting that there is an abortion "crisis" because many doctors are refusing to perform abortions due to ethical reasons!

One of the sad ironies of the legalization of abortion in the United States is that the legalization did not automatically make the procedure either ethical or moral. It is one of many things in life--like telemarketers--that are legal, but who's ethical and moral bearing are certainly negative.

Abortion is both unethical and immoral in the vast majority of the cases in which it's performed, where a perfectly healthy female simply decides that having a baby would be just too inconvenient. In other words, most abortions are nothing more than radical attempts at birth control, after the fact of conception.

Here an excerpt from the article:

Britain is facing an abortion crisis because an unprecedented number of doctors are refusing to be involved in carrying out the procedure. The exodus of doctors prepared to perform the task is a nationwide phenomenon that threatens to plunge the abortion service into chaos, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has warned.

More than 190,000 abortions are carried out each year in England and Wales and the NHS is already struggling to cope. Four out of five abortions are paid for by the NHS but almost half of those are carried out in the private sector, paid for by the NHS.

The reluctance of NHS staff, both doctors and nurses, to be involved has led to a doubling of abortions paid for by the NHS, which are carried out in the private or charitable sector, from 20 per cent of the total in 1997 to almost 40 per cent.
SOURCE: The Indpendent: 16 APRIL 2007: Abortion crisis as doctors refuse to perform surgery

HAT TIP: Michelle Malkin

<>< TM

Now 33 people reported dead...

The deadliest mass shooting in American history took place today in Virginia. The death toll is now at 33 people, including the gunmen. Here is the latest from MSNBC:

BLACKSBURG, Va. - Thirty-three people, including the gunman, were killed on a Virginia university campus Monday in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. At least 15 other people were injured, some of them as they leapt to safety from the windows of a classroom building.

The shootings, which took place in two locations at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, came just four days before the eighth anniversary of the Columbine High School bloodbath near Littleton, Colo. They created panic and confusion at the college, where students and employees angrily asked why the first e-mail warning did not go out to them until the gunman had struck a second time.

Nearly 50 victims

Federal law enforcement officials said the gunman killed himself after he shot dozens of people at the college in southwest Virginia. Thirty-two people were confirmed dead, in addition to the gunman.

At least 15 other people were treated for gunshot wounds or other injuries, some of whom had jumped from Norris Hall, an engineering classroom building where the second wave of shootings took place. Their conditions were not reported.

SOURCE: MSNBC: 16 APRIL 2007: At least 33 dead in rampage on Virginia campus

At this time there is no motive given or known for the mass slayings. Obviously, this was done by one angry person. It does not appear to be an act of terrorism, but rather the work of one very deranged individual.

Again, my deepest condolences and sympathy to the friends and family of the victims. May God grant you peace and comfort at this time.

<>< TM

"22 Dead After Virginia Tech University Shooting"

Horrible news to wake up to: 22 Dead After Virginia Tech University Shooting.

No one knows the motive for the shooting at this time, but here is some key poinits to keep in mind:

The students and faculty were barricading themselves in their classrooms after what one person described as an Asian student wearing a vest opened fire.

The shooter was "wearing a vest covered in clips was just unloading on their door, going from classroom to classroom … they said it never seemed like it was going to stop and there was just blood all over," Harrison said.

Source: FoxNews: 16 APRIL 2007: Police: 22 Dead After Virginia Tech University Shooting

An "Asian" student wearing a "vest covered in clips" -- definately a pre-meditated attack, where the killer was going for maximum casualties.

It will be interesting to find out who this gunmen was, and his background...

In the meantime, my sincere condelences and sympathy to those family and friends of the victims.

<>< TM

Friday, April 13, 2007

Einstein on God, atheism, science and religion

While speaking on the topic of atheism...

Here are some excellent quotes from Albert Einstein about God, religion, science and atheism from the soon to be released book Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson. © 2007 by Walter Isaacson. (To be published by Simon & Schuster, Inc.)

Shortly after his 50th birthday, Einstein also gave a remarkable interview in which he was more revealing than he had ever been about his religious sensibility. It was with George Sylvester Viereck, who had been born in Germany, moved to America as a child and then spent his life writing gaudily erotic poetry, interviewing great men and expressing his complex love for his fatherland. Einstein assumed Viereck was Jewish. In fact, Viereck proudly traced his lineage to the family of the Kaiser, and he would later become a Nazi sympathizer who was jailed in America during World War II for being a German propagandist.

Viereck began by asking Einstein whether he considered himself a German or a Jew. "It's possible to be both," replied Einstein. "Nationalism is an infantile disease, the measles of mankind."

Should Jews try to assimilate? "We Jews have been too eager to sacrifice our idiosyncrasies in order to conform."

To what extent are you influenced by Christianity? "As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene."

You accept the historical existence of Jesus? "Unquestionably! No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life."

Do you believe in God? "I'm not an atheist. I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws."

Is this a Jewish concept of God? "I am a determinist. I do not believe in free will. Jews believe in free will. They believe that man shapes his own life. I reject that doctrine. In that respect I am not a Jew."

Is this Spinoza's God? "I am fascinated by Spinoza's pantheism, but I admire even more his contribution to modern thought because he is the first philosopher to deal with the soul and body as one, and not two separate things."

Do you believe in immortality? "No. And one life is enough for me."

Einstein tried to express these feelings clearly, both for himself and all of those who wanted a simple answer from him about his faith. So in the summer of 1930, amid his sailing and ruminations in Caputh, he composed a credo, "What I Believe," that he recorded for a human-rights group and later published. It concluded with an explanation of what he meant when he called himself religious: "The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is something that our minds cannot grasp, whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly: this is religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I am a devoutly religious man."


But throughout his life, Einstein was consistent in rejecting the charge that he was an atheist. "There are people who say there is no God," he told a friend. "But what makes me really angry is that they quote me for support of such views." And unlike Sigmund Freud or Bertrand Russell or George Bernard Shaw, Einstein never felt the urge to denigrate those who believed in God; instead, he tended to denigrate atheists. "What separates me from most so-called atheists is a feeling of utter humility toward the unattainable secrets of the harmony of the cosmos," he explained.

In fact, Einstein tended to be more critical of debunkers, who seemed to lack humility or a sense of awe, than of the faithful. "The fanatical atheists," he wrote in a letter, "are like slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who--in their grudge against traditional religion as the 'opium of the masses'-- cannot hear the music of the spheres."

Einstein later explained his view of the relationship between science and religion at a conference at the Union Theological Seminary in New York. The realm of science, he said, was to ascertain what was the case, but not evaluate human thoughts and actions about what should be the case. Religion had the reverse mandate. Yet the endeavors worked together at times. "Science can be created only by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding," he said. "This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion." The talk got front-page news coverage, and his pithy conclusion became famous. "The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."

SOURCE: Time: 5 APRIL 2007: Einstein and Faith

HAT TIP: Get Religion

<>< TM

Atheist Evangelism

In my article "Why Be a Christian?" I make a reference to the increasingly nasty rhetoric coming from militant atheist fundamentalists. Well, I'm not the only one who's been noticing, not by a long shot...

In Thursday's Wall Street Journal (where else?) there was a very long, interesting article (though not very well written) about the increasing militancy of the atheists of Europe, who seem to be in a war of rhetoric with their none too tolerant counterparts: Islam. However, it's not just Islam that's on the rise in Europe, as Europeans get fed-up with the emptiness and nihilism of their socialist utopias, they are turning back to Christianity, though it's only in small numbers. Still, it seems as if secular humanism has bottomed out, and the non-faith of atheism is taking note.

Nature abhors a vacuum, and so does the human spirit; you can only fill it with so much booze, drugs and sex, then it either becomes numb or angry. The meaning of life is not the pleasure principle; only a fool would be convinced that the meaning of life is maximized pleasure by any means possible, which seems to be the only positive message that the atheists have at their disposal. It's easy to criticize religion, I do it all the time, but it's much, much more difficult to come up with a creditable alternative, and man being the measure of all things simply doesn't measure up.

So here is a nice, long excerpt from the WSJ article:

As Religious Strife Grows,
Europe's Atheists Seize Pulpit

Islam's Rise Gives Boost
To Militant Unbelievers;

The Celebrity Hedonist

April 12, 2007; Page A1

CAEN, France -- With 40 minutes to go before show time, the 500-seat Alexis de Tocqueville auditorium was already packed. A fan set up a video camera in the front row. A sound engineer checked the microphones.

The star: Michel Onfray, celebrity philosopher and France's high priest of militant atheism. Dressed entirely in black, he strode onto the stage and looked out at the reverential audience for his weekly two-hour lecture series, "Hedonist Philosophy," which is broadcast on a state radio station. "I could found a religion," he said.

Mr. Onfray, 48 years old and author of 32 books, stands in the vanguard of a curious and increasingly potent phenomenon in Europe: zealous disbelief in God.

Passive indifference to faith has left Europe's churches mostly empty. But debate over religion is more intense and strident than it has been in many decades. Religion is re-emerging as a big issue in part because of anxiety over Europe's growing and restive Muslim populations and a fear that faith is reasserting itself in politics and public policy. That is all adding up to a growing momentum for a combative brand of atheism, one that confronts rather than merely ignores religion.

Karen Armstrong, a former Catholic nun and prominent British author on religion, calls the trend "missionary secularism." She says it mimics the ardor of Christianity, Islam and Marxism, all of which have at their core an urge to convert nonbelievers to their worldview.

Mr. Onfray argues that atheism faces a "final battle" against "theological hocus-pocus" and must rally its troops. "We can no longer tolerate neutrality and benevolence," he writes in "Traité d'athéologie," or Atheist Manifesto, a best seller in France, Italy and Spain. "The turbulent time we live in suggests that change is at hand and the time has come for a new order."
[Michel Onfray]

As with many fights involving faith, Europe's struggle between belief and nonbelief is also a proxy for other, concrete issues that go far beyond the supernatural. In this case, they involve a battle to define the identity of a continent.

Half a century after the 1957 Treaty of Rome laid the foundations for the now 27-nation European Union, Europe has secured peace and prosperity. But it is deeply uncertain about what binds the bloc together beyond mere economic self-interest. Says Ms. Armstrong: "There is a big fight going on to define European civilization."

In London last month, leading British atheists squared off with defenders of faith in a public debate on the motion, "We'd be better off without religion." Tickets cost nearly $40 but so many people wanted to attend that the event was moved to a bigger venue with over 2,000 seats. It still sold out. The audience declared the atheists the victors, by a margin of 1,205 to 778, with a few score abstentions.

In Germany, a wealthy furniture manufacturer is funding a "think tank of Enlightenment," a group of scientists and others committed to debunking religion. It is named after Giordano Bruno, a 16th-century philosopher and cosmologist who was burnt at the stake as a heretic. In Italy, one fervent nonbeliever has gone to the European Court of Human Rights with a claim that the Roman Catholic Church is guilty of fraud: Jesus, he says, never existed.

Prime Catalyst

Alarm over Islam has acted as the prime catalyst for much of the polemic. Europe's Muslim populace, estimated at between 15 million and 20 million people, is growing more numerous, more vocal and, in some cases, more religious. The clash also feeds on a deeper confrontation that dates back to Europe's Enlightenment, the 18th-century intellectual movement that asserted the primacy of reason over superstition.

"The battle over religion is restarting. It is going to be a difficult one," says Terry Sanderson, president of Britain's National Secular Society, an organization that was founded in the 19th century but has now gained a new vibrancy. Membership has doubled in the past four years, to around 7,000, says Mr. Sanderson. For converts from Christianity, the society provides a certificate of "de-baptism." "Make it official!" urges the society's Web site,

The atheist cause won a big-name endorsement late last year when pop star Elton John, in an interview, said organized religion turned people into "hateful lemmings" and should be banned.

The backlash against religiosity has even seeped into Europe's Muslim community. In February, Mina Ahadi, an Iranian-born woman in Cologne, Germany, set up the Continent's first Muslim atheist group: the National Council of Ex-Muslims. She immediately started getting death threats and was put under police protection.

"Our main message is: 'We don't believe,' " says Ms. Ahadi, talking in a coffee shop next to Cologne Cathedral, a towering tribute to faith that took 600 years to complete. A police guard hovered nearby.

Atheism, Ms. Ahadi says, must confront religion head-on -- and adopt its methods. Her group started with just 30 members in February and a month later had more than 400. It is lobbying European Union officials for restrictions on the veil and organizing a public meeting at which ex-Muslims will explain why they quit. "If you want to work against Muslim movements, you have to be like them," she says. "We have to go outside and say what we're fighting for."

Europe's atheist campaigners have also made a splash in America. "The God Delusion," a book by Oxford Professor Richard Dawkins, has been on the New York Times hardcover nonfiction best-seller list for 28 weeks. Another British atheist, U.S.-based writer Christopher Hitchens, has written his own antireligious treatise, "God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything," due out in May.

Christianity, once the bedrock of Europe's identity, has been losing worshipers on the Continent for at least half a century, though some opinion polls suggest the downward trend has bottomed out. Around three-quarters of Europeans still describe themselves as Christians. But only a small minority go to church. In Western Europe, according to polls, fewer than 20% do.

The number of atheists is hard to pin down. Some surveys put the figure at under 3%, but others say it is much higher.


Religious leaders are pushing back against the assertive unbelievers. The Church of England's Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, complained in a December statement about "illiberal atheists who have joined forces with aggressive secularists." He was responding to demands that Jesus be removed from nativity plays and that Christmas parties be called "winter festival" gatherings.

Mr. Onfray's atheist tract, recently translated into English, has prompted three book-length rebuttals by angry Christians and a flood of articles. To counter Prof. Dawkins's "God Delusion," an Oxford theology professor wrote his own book, "The Dawkins Delusion."

Both atheists and their foes agree on one thing: God -- declared dead over a century ago by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche -- is making a comeback, at least as a focus of controversy. "Faith is on the public agenda in a way that is unprecedented in recent times," proclaimed the founding manifesto of Theos, a new British-based Christian think tank.

Europe's atheist movement has no Vatican-like central command and springs from many different sources. Some adherents have personal grievance. Mr. Onfray spent part of his youth in a home run by Catholic priests, who he says mistreated him and abused others. Ms. Ahadi, head of the German ex-Muslims group, says her first husband was executed by Islamic revolutionaries in Iran.


Pierre Andrieu, a 63-year-old former executive with BNP-Paribas, a French bank, travels up to Caen each week from Paris for the lecture show. He makes the trip, he says, because he shares Mr. Onfray's take on faith--and fears that religion is making a comeback. "It is far more present than before," he says. "This need for religion is very, very strong. Religion is like magic. It is all about tricks."

SOURCE: Wall Street Journal: 12 APRIL 2007: THE NEW CRUSADERS: As Religious Strife Grows, Europe's Atheists Seize Pulpit

<>< TM