Saturday, October 28, 2006

Why We Homeschool

Below are some thoughts on homeschooling from my wife, Kathy. Kathy posted this on our family website and was writing for the benefit of concerned friends and family who may not understand the decision to teach our kids at home.

I hope to write about this in the future, but if you're interested, you can check out my earlier thoughts on education and socialization.

Anyway, here is Kathy...

As promised, I've tried to put together some reasons for those of you who were blindsided by our decision to start homeschooling the boys. I've got a little sleep under my belt, so maybe I'll be a little more coherent than the previous entry about this. This is going to be a long, long post, so if you don't really care just skip it!

Religious reasons: First, as I mentioned before, God has entrusted these kids to us and it's our responsibility to raise them the best way we can. That doesn't just mean reading and writing, but all aspects of life. Spiritual disciplines, manners, cooking, personal responsibilities, household responsibilities, the value of money, etc. Darrell frequently paraphrases Doug Wilson, "We are responsible for what our children learn, whether we are the ones who teach it to them or not." All children are unique and have been given special gifts from God. We can give them the tools, time, and encouragement to explore those gifts. I feel sorry for kids who spend eight hours at school, come home, try to unwind for a little while, eat dinner, do homework for two hours, see mom and dad for an hour, and go to bed. Our family can now work together, play together, learn together, serve together, and follow God's will for us together. Building a strong family life is always a priority in serving God.

As Christians, we want to have not just academically successful children, but wise children who have been brought up learning how to fear and serve the Lord. Proverbs 13:20 says "He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed." Who are some of the foolish? Proverbs 22:20 says "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child." Of course there are others who are called foolish, but that seems pretty straightforward to me, the heart of a child would be one example. How are my children supposed to combat their natural foolishness by being immersed in a "peer group" of fellow fools all day? Also, Proverbs 22:6 (I like Proverbs!) says "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." Now, of course you can train your children after school hours, and being around fellow foolish children all day does not take away our responsibility as parents to wash that foolishness from them, however as homeschoolers our job is so much easier! When something happens with one of the boys, either in words or actions, we can stop what we're doing and address the issue, correct it, and repent of it if necessary. If they're in school, we have to wait until hours later, rehash everything that went on (if his memory is correct), then try to deal with it when we only have one party present . . . if we hear of the incident at all. A peer group is not always a positive thing. More on that later! There are oodles of passages in the Bible about instructing children, as well as the family, those are just a couple.

What makes you think you can do what a teacher went to college for? First of all, as a favorite saying of mine says, "God does not call the equipped, but He equips the called." I felt a very real burden put on my heart for homeschooling. Believe me, it was not any person that put it there. I can understand now why some people feel as if they were being called to homeschool. I felt that call. I was very, very opposed to the idea as recently as last fall. Frankly, now that I look back I can see how selfish my reasonings were (no quiet home for me while kids were in school for the day, in fact much more time spent with the kids; constantly looking for educational things to do, thus taking even more of my free time away; among other things). My opposition included not feeling adequate for the job. There are people that spend years in college preparing for this. I'm a mom. Of course, then I realized that I had, in fact, already been homeschooling. All the kids learned to walk, talk, socialize with others, learn their colors, numbers, shapes, etc. that all kids have to know before entering kindergarten. They learned Bible stories, music, how to bake . . . or at least how to assist the baker. They learned how to serve others when they help a baby brother or helping one of us with a chore. They learned how to think of someone hurting and how to help them. Andrew, with his less than stellar Kindergarten experience, had to homeschool after school so he could understand what wasn't made clear earlier in the day. Four hours at school lead to frustration and confusion, ten minutes with me lead to understanding and comprehension. He needs hands on learning, they do worksheets. He needed some extra time to understand a phonics lesson, they moved on the next day. He was quickly loosing his love of exploring things and learning in general. But back to my original question above. After seeing different "teacher resources", I noticed that almost everything I was seeing did not have anything to do with academics. It was all crowd control techniques and time fillers. Since most of a school day is wasted time anyway, what with bathroom breaks and recess and waiting until someone can find something for me to do since I can't go further on my worksheet, do we really need more time fillers? My kids learn best from me. I know my kids like no one else does. I know how they learn best. I know what their passions are. I know how to research things to help them explore their passions. No teacher, with twenty other kids in the room, can possibly serve my child like I can. No teacher, with twenty other kids in the room can give Josh what he needs physically to focus. If I don't understand a subject well enough to teach it to my children, I learn it then pass it on or we learn it together. This has already been the case with History and Science this year. I didn't know anything about ancient life, but I do now and I'm learning more as we go along in our schoolyear. I don't know everything there is to know about the different animals of the world, but we are learning together thru our materials. We also can spend more time on a subject that interests them. We pretty much dumped sting rays one week for science because they were enjoying sharks so much. More on that later too :) There are plenty of things I'll have to learn right along with them, or if needed there are cottage school or tutors. This year I didn't want to begin the year with more on my plate that necessary. That way I could get used to homeschooling while just worrying about the basics. That left out formal art and music training. Now, our Andrew loves art. He loves, loves, loves art. There was a class being offered every other Friday for this school year at a nearby church. It is being taught by a homeschool mom who is an artist. This is a great way for her to earn some extra money (it pays for the curriculum they use with their kids), and allows kids interested in art a way to have formal instruction pretty cheaply. Andrew loves it. Music has not been added yet aside from singing songs together. Formal music instruction will be added next year. Our kids will be expected to learn a musical instrument . . . at least one. If they become interested in voice lessons, we can find that for them. The homeschool groups around here provide group classes like choir, or references for individual instruction. Some subjects (like learning an instrument) would be taught by a private teacher whether they're in a school or homeschool. If our kids struggle in a subject and we need help, we can go to a tutor just as someone in a school would. In later years, we may need lab equipment, or we can do chemistry thru a cottage school. We can do either one we like. Anything the schools can buy, so can homeschoolers. This is a major difference from a decade ago. I can buy slides of different organisms to study. I can buy dead frogs to dissect. Of course, I certainly may not want a dead frog to dissect. Then it's off to the cottage school!

Divided Loyalty/Respect. This leads me to more of our experience in a school. I can tell them when to brush their teeth, but not how to write? I can tell them it's time for bed, but not what the next phonics rule is? We ran into divided obedience quite often last year. "But my teacher said _____" Well, we're telling you that's not how it is. Obviously, we don't know what we're talking about. His teacher said get the work done as quickly as possible so you can have your free time. We said do your work correctly, and if it takes longer so be it. A child, when trying to be obedient as he should be, is confronted with school he is put in a position where he learns to obey whomever is in charge at the moment. This is not acceptable to us. He is to obey God, then us. We overrule what the teacher says. End of story.

The Big "S" Word. Ah, socialization. The catch all argument for why you shouldn't homeschool. How will they learn to interact with the people around them? How will they learn to work as a team? How will they learn to stand in line? How can you lock them in your basement and not ever let them outside to see the sun and other people? Okay, that last one was one I made up. Socialization is far better when you homeschool. As a quick note, why is your family not considered a decent social unit exactly? We have three kids. That's as many kids as Andrew played with on the playground during recess last year. Boys split off to play with boys, girls with girls. (There were only three boys in Andrew's class last year, and he was one of them.) Another quick note, isn't school for learning to read and write anyway? People seem more concerned that the kids have lots of friends to talk to around them than looking at the board and seeing how to learn how to subtract. Socialization is not always a positive thing. Ever hear of mob mentality or peer pressure? Think that doesn't happen with kids in school? Do you even remember school? Kids tend to get a kick out of sneaking some kind of bad behavior. Remember, "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child"? Whether its a swear word, a moment of thievery, a disrespectful attitude, or drugs, these are all passed on to the group around them and held up as a victory in "see what I got away with?" A gauntlet has been thrown down. Who else will be able to keep up with the group around them. I want to show my children godly examples, protect them from ungodly examples, and give them social skills for many situations. Since the kids aren't locked up in a school all day, we can interact with a wide variety of people. We can visit neighbors, we can help a the clothes closet at church, we can pack up our books and take off to Michigan to visit family. Our kids learn how to intereact with everyone, not just a group that's just like them. Where else in your life have you been completely surrounded by people within a year of your own age. Only in school.

Our kids need time with other children. Having brothers gets old after a while. We have been very blessed in this regard. On the next block is a homeschooling family with two boys just a few months older than Andrew and Josh. At church is a multitude of families with children our boys ages, all homeschool. We are able to get together for an extended lunch and play. On a beautiful day, we can head off to the park for a picnic and play. We take field trips together. Then there's our actual homeschool group. We've been very impressed with the groups organization. There's a field trip leader, and a sheparding group leader, both of whom plan activities to get the kids involved with the other kids in the group. There are just the informal gatherings, someone posts something like, "we're going to be at ______ if anyone wants to join us for the morning" on the group email account. Then there's the sports activities thru the YMCA or one of the nearby churches. Our boys are determined to be on every sports team for every season. Before we officially decided to homeschool, I asked several friends what they do for "social activities". Basically, I was greeted by chuckling. I was told by every homeschooler that the trick isn't trying to find if there's something to be involved in, but trying to keep the social activities in an acceptable range so they have time to do their actual studies. We have found that to be completely true.

. Then there are just the nice things we appreciate about homeschooling. We don't have to worry about getting up long before the sun, gulping breakfast, then trying to fight traffic on the way to school. We don't have to plan vacations around a school schedule someone else came up with. We don't have to worry about all of those stories in the news about school shootings, or other modern day school dangers. We don't need a police officer to patrol our halls, or lock down our building once everyones inside. My kids don't need special permission to use the bathroom. If there's a bully in our school, he's getting a whoopin' and then some serious repentance is in order. We don't have to worry about taking the "proper snack" to school to share with the class (this was an issue last year due to allergies of a fellow student). If we want a Ding Dong, doggone it we're having a Ding Dong! My kids can play tag and dodgeball all they want without the school fearing a lawsuit. We can call our Christmas and Easter Breaks just that, not Winter and Spring Breaks. We aren't forced to move to the next lesson whether the students learned the last lesson or not. We take a break from the regular schedule and really learn the lesson. If there's a subject our kids are fascinated with, like sharks mentioned above, we can explore the subject until our eyes fall out. If there's a subject our kids don't like, I can find another way to approach the subject so they enjoy it more. With our kids it's doing lots of hands on activities. We're able to give lots of personal feedback in the classroom, which they're not able to get in the public schools. Homeschooling is not compartmentalized as it is in school. Yes, we do have a set "school time", however it melts into other aspects of our day. Since I'm extremely involved in what they are taught, I can easily see when an opportunity arises to point it out in a real-life situation. We're able to be there when they learn how to read, or when they learn a new lesson in math that they're excited about. We're able to really be involved in the learning process of our children, and delight in seeing them accomplish things they didn't think they could do. We're able to instill in them a love of learning that, hopefully, will last a lifetime. We're able to see Andrew take Josh under his wing and, even at this age, try to pass along some of his brotherly wisdom both in school and in life. Andrew is Josh's cheerleader, and the first one to give high-fives when a difficult task has been accomplished. That's a beautiful thing to witness, and it wouldn't happen with nearly as much frequency as it does since we homeschool. How long will we do this? I don't know. I'd love to do it thru high school, but that's sixteen years away. That's too much for my wee little brain to think about right now. I'm taking it in about two year chunks. I never, ever thought it would be easy to homeschool. It's even more work than I had envisioned. But there isn't anything I'd trade it for now

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Rushdoony Speaks, and so do Others in Their Folly

Heather Mac Donald writes that conservatism does not need God. But Mac Donald is making conclusions and evaluating the evidence through an existing paradigm and moral order created by Christianity. She defends the institution of marriage and speaks favorably of the Golden Rule as a foundation for personal ethics without realizing that neither has a basis in autonomous reason. Morality and ethics cannot be objectified with an appeal to materialistic and naturalistic assumptions. Thus Mac Donald is held on the lap of God even as she smacks Him in the face.

Rushdoony on self-government: "When we talk about government, we should remember that the heart of all sound government is self-government. We fail to grasp the nature of our problem if we do not recognize that, basically, government is self-government. Throughout history, wherever and whenever self-government declines, statist government increases proportionately. If men will not govern themselves, someone else will...The problem of our time is that men want neither freedom nor self-government. They want the advantages of slavery without its penalties. Slavery offers cradle-to-grave security, and it offers a master who solves all problems for us. Most people want slavery but are not honest enough to call it slavery. They sugarcoat it with all kinds of political slogans to make it sound like heaven itself, and they are the first victims of their propaganda."

'Twould appear that the Moors have overrun Spain.

A Jewish "conservative" reviews the work of a gay Catholic "conservative": "Oakeshott was wise, but Oakeshottian conservatism can never prevail in America because the United States was not founded on the basis of custom, but by the assertion of a universal truth — that all men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain rights. The United States is a creedal nation, and almost every significant movement in American history has been led by people calling upon us to live up to our creed." Wrong, Mr. Brooks. The United States is a nation, an ethno-cultural entity, not merely a set of vague universal propositions.

Talk-radio yakkers and shouting heads are mere adjuncts of The Man: "It was clear by the late 1990s that political talk-radio had ceased to be a useful forum for conservative ideas and activism outside the traditional media and became nothing more than the propaganda wing of the Republican National Committee (just like Free Republic website did in largely the same manner)."

Homeschoolers are shilling for the GOP: "'You only gain clout by activity,'" says Michael Farris, chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association. His group plans to send hundreds of teenagers who are home schooled to 10 states in the election's closing week to make phone calls and knock on doors on behalf of conservative candidates."

An honest diplomat has his paddies whacked: "When senior State Department official Alberto Fernandez said in an interview on Al Jazeera Saturday that US policies in Iraq have been marked by 'arrogance' and 'stupidity,' he was expressing a sentiment widely held in the Arab world...The only problem was, his comments were immediately disavowed by the Bush Administration. Now the future of Fernandez - one of America's most potent public diplomacy weapons in the region - is clouded, and the Arab view of an America that admits to no mistakes has become more entrenched."

An example of why I love The American Conservative. Writing of the looming Islamic caliphate, Gregory Cochran writes, "This is undoubtedly the craziest argument for a policy ever put forth by the United States government. The only reason that we’re not bundling Bush off to the booby hatch is that he’s ramped up the insanity gradually: first the Iraqi peril, then the crusade for Arab democracy, now preventing the rebirth of the Caliphate. Manage the segue properly and people get used to all kinds of nonsense."

More Rushdoony:

"When men in unrighteousness or injustice suppress or deny that knowledge, they cannot evade the necessity of God, and so they declare or create new gods in their image, or in terms of their imagination (Rom. 1:18-25). The most powerful, and most deadly, of these new or false gods has, through the centuries, been the state. The state, as a false god, claims total jurisdiction, and it declares itself sovereign or god: it is, in terms of ancient paganism, Hegel, and modern political thought, god walking on earth. Men, having denied the true God, cannot escape having a god, and the modern state is the great Baal (or Lord) of modern man. The cry of modern man is a political cry, 'O Baal, hear us' and save us (I Kings 18:26). Here is idolatry, and too long the church has been silent in the face of it, or has urged its people to submit to Baal in the name of Jesus Christ: to its idolatry, it has added blasphemy."

"Moreover, every modern state has demonstrated that its enmity with foreign powers is a transitory and changing thing. Yesterday’s and tomorrow’s enemies are today’s friends, and future friends as well. Each and every modern state has one abiding enemy against whom perpetual warfare is waged, under the façade of concern and 'welfare.' That abiding enemy of the modern state is its own people, against whom perpetual war is waged in the name of perpetual concern. The foreign enemy is often real, but it is the domestic enemy which is constant."

"The humanistic state is at war with God. For God’s law, it substitutes the state’s law. Because the humanistic state is at war with God, it will be at war with every faithful Christian. Even more, it will be at war with man as such, because man is God’s image-bearer. Therefore, the state seeks to remake man and to obliterate God’s image."

"But man cannot live without a doctrine of Providence. The idea of predestination is an intellectual necessity, because the alternative is a world of total chance and meaninglessness. The doctrine of laissez-faire had shifted the government and decree from God to Nature, while tacitly retaining all the forms of the theological formulation of the doctrine. With Darwin, a further transfer took place. Now the state (or with libertarians, anarchistic man) became the source of providence and predestination."

"The politics of the anti-Christian will thus inescapably be the politics of guilt. In the politics of guilt, man is perpetually drained in his social energy and cultural activity by his over-riding sense of guilt and his masochistic activity. He will progressively demand of the state a redemptive role. What he cannot do personally, i.e., to save himself, he demands that the state do for him, so that the state, as man enlarged, becomes the human savior of man. The politics of guilt, therefore is not directed, as the Christian politics of liberty, to the creation of godly justice and order, but to the creation of a redeeming order, a saving state. Guilt must be projected, therefore, on all those who oppose this new order and new age."

"Because man is a religious creature, the god-concept is inescapable to his thinking. Man will either serve the true God or create a false one. If man removes his gods or God from heaven, he will speedily create a new god on earth. In any system of though lacking in transcendence, and, ultimately, only biblical Christianity has a true doctrine of transcendence, power and omnipotence become immanent concepts. As a result, the highest point of power in any system becomes the god of that system. As a result, statism, the most logical expression of that immanent power, becomes the manifest expression of divinity on earth. Thus, as religious unbelief increases, statism increases….Political liberalism is thus a logical development of theological liberalism, in that both involve a transfer of sovereignty from God to man; both rest on a concept of the independence of time from eternity, implicitly or explicitly. Both are indifferent, cool, or rebellious towards the sovereign decree and favor a democratization of authority as the true ground of civil order."

"The essence of planning is this attempt to be as God, to replace God and his predestination with man and his predestination. Under the opiate of planning, the dream of reason aspires to circumscribe every man and every eventuality within the omnipotent arms of the Great Society, the Kingdom of Man. The Plan is a net to ensnare God but which instead ensnares Man. Its purpose is to bind the creation and its Creator within the decree of the City of Man, to creation and its Creator within the decree of the City of Man to make man supreme, but the only thing controlled is man: God remains sovereign. The politics of blood guiltiness is thus statism."

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Iraq, Elections, and the Failures of Christians

The president says he has no intention of changing course in Iraq. "Our goal has not changed. Our goal is a country that can defend, sustain and govern itself, a country that which will serve as an ally in this war. Our tactics are adjusting." Tactics need adjusting, huh? Even some warmongers are no longer buying it. NRs Jonah Goldberg, whose writing is indicative of the decline and fall of serious conservative thinking, has admitted the war was a "noble" mistake. Eliot Cohen concedes, too, that the war has been a failure. "That the Iraq war is, if not a failure, failing, requires little demonstration," writes Cohen in the Wall Street Journal. Of course as a typical neocon, Cohen hasn't given up on the notion of senseless destruction in the name of restoring American credibility. "American prestige...will not be restored without a considerable and successful use of American military power down the road."

Speaking to GOP flak Rush Limbaugh, VP Cheney said the war is going "remarkably well." "I think there's some natural level of concern out there because in fact, you know, it wasn't over instantaneously. It's been a little over three years now since we went into Iraq, so I don't think it's surprising that people are concerned," said the vice president. "On the other hand, this government has only been in office about five months, five or six months now. They're off to a good start. It is difficult, no question about it, but we've now got over 300,000 Iraqis trained and equipped as part of their security forces. They've had three national elections with higher turnout than we have here in the United States. If you look at the general overall situation, they're doing remarkably well."

Speaking of GOP lickspittles, Sean Hannity, Michael Medved, Laura Ingraham, Mike Gallagher, and Neal Boortz were recently seen lounging in the Oval Office, getting marching orders from the president himself. Far from being a populist medium challenging the concentration of power, talk radio yakkers have become a Ministry of Truth: "Much of national talk radio today serves the same purpose as Big Brother's Ministry of Truth by endlessly spinning coverage of the issues in a light favorable to the chosen party line. Narrowly constructed arguments attempt to define issues with the false choices of liberal vs. conservative, Republican vs. Democrat, etc. Airwaves bristle with constant agitation for war and the demonizing of those who are designated as enemies."

Out here in the real world, people are beginning to notice the folly and deceit at the heart of administration policy in Iraq and elsewhere. That is obviously bad news for Republicans and conservatives, who have attached the party and movement to a foolish and unwinnable war and an arrogant executive. All of those in the know seem of the opinion that in a post-election environment, a newfound sanity will arise and the adults will take seize the reins of power from the current crop of Jacobins marauding about. Senator Sununu says, "I don't think anyone in the administration is pleased about the current state of affairs. I would hope that members of the administration are willing to learn from past mistakes . . . and choose a different path that would allow us to meet our objectives." Yes, they've proven most flexible to this point, don't you think? In an election season, even Republican politicians are running away from the president. Of course, I would feel better if I assumed any of them were telling the truth, and had exercised a bit of good judgment in the past.

Meanwhile, as Iraqi Christians live in fear of being victimized by death squads, evangelical "leaders" like Richard Land team up with socialists like Jim Wallis to agitate on behalf of intervention in Sudan. So, in short, American foreign policy should mean advancing Islamic interests in places such as Africa, the Balkans, and former Soviet republics, while selling out Middle Eastern Christians because it works for Israel. This is the best we can get from Christian foreign policy thinkers.

The Iraqi government is doing everything in its power to shield the number of civilian deaths.

Is it any wonder that no one takes Christians seriously? A debate among Baptists over the issue of Calvinism was slated to be held in Lynchburg, VA. The debate was evntually cancelled and one of the paricipants, Ergun Caner, referred to Calvinists as "worse than Muslims."

Chris Ortiz with a fabulous post over at Chalcedon:

There are no political solutions to our national dilemmas. Our reliance must be upon the Lord. The Christian community must return to Him with a repentance made manifest in explicit, determined obedience to His law and covenant. Christian Reconstructionists bear a specific responsibility to speak along these lines, yet a good many theonomic leader has left the fold for the "deeper waters" of triviality, obscure literature, theological revisionism, and hip-hop! They are preoccupied with memorizing the multiple brands of ale and photographing themselves smoking cigars. My goodness, need I remind you men of your calling...

Enough with metanarratives. Enough with "emergence." Enough with postmodernity. Why do you allow the moorings of a contemporary culture to determine your daily focus? Oh, what an intoxicating spirit is the liquor of relevance! The application of your prophetic office is not relevance to a capricious culture, but rather representation of the righteous Lord. Seek to conform men to God's standards rather than conform yourself to man's cultural folly...

Rushdoony and Bahnsen are gone just a few years and already theonomic leaders are toying with Pharoah and his chariots; and I have no other explanation than that of confusion. As was the handicap of ancient Israel today's Christian is "veiled" from "seeing to the end of what was established" (cf. 2 Cor. 3:14,15). When you lose sight of the direction of eschatological purpose you become consumed with the present. Since Israel could not see the goal of Old Testament history due to the veiling of their hearts and minds they wandered aimlessly and sought only to conform to other nations, i.e., they lusted for cultural relevance.

Monday, October 16, 2006

On Service and Dominion

I would like to briefly consider the seeming paradox believers face as we think about the relationship between being stewards of God’s creation and the palpable disinterest in worldly endeavors that seems a part of the New Testament narrative particularly.

Specifically, I’ve been thinking about Peter’s description of Christians as "sojourners and exiles" (I Peter 2:11). Interestingly, immediately after this passage, Peter moves on to a discussion of civil authority and the obligations, duties and responsibilities of citizenship. So how exactly are we exiles and citizens at the same time, and what holds these two strands together?

Beyond Peter, James says that our life is like a vapor. Christ indicates that His Kingdom is not of this world. Paul says that our citizenship is not of this world, but is in heaven. Our kiddies go to summer camp and sit around the campfire singing ditties like this:

This worlds not my home, I’m just a-passin’ through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angel beckons me from heaven’s open door
And I just can’t live at home in this world anymore.

Conversely, we’re told in Scripture that we are to exercise dominion on God’s behalf. "Be fruitful, multiply, and subdue the earth" was the command given to Adam and Noah, and it hasn’t been revoked. We’re told to go "and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." Jesus taught his disciples to pray, "thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on EARTH as it is in heaven." Likewise, we sing "This is Our Father’s World" and we believe that redemption extends as far as the curse is found.

How shall we reason through the paradox? How is that we can exercise dominion while being exiles and sojourners?

First, we must make a distinction between being in and of the world. The word "world" is used in numerous ways throughout scripture, as it is in modern parlance. To think of the world as the created order or as a geographic area, for instance, is different from considering it as an ethical system.

Scripture affirms that God loved the world (John 3:16), the cosmos, and thus sent His Son to perish for its ultimate redemption and glorification (Rom. 8:21). Likewise, Genesis says that God created the world and that everything he saw was "good." In Col. 1 we read of the supremacy of Christ, and His role as creator: "For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him" (v. 16). Christ also sustains all things via His providential hand (v. 17).

Further, in the Bible, men are never saved out of this world, but are recreated in Christ for the purpose of serving Him (Eph. 2:10). Christ’s prayer in John 17 is clear: "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world."

So "the world" as the benevolent gift and creation of God is something that is good, something we should work to restore. But world often has another meaning, too. It is frequently used to represent an ethical system. See the thoughts of Greg Bahnsen discussing Satan as the "prince of this world":

It is quite common for the term "world" to be used, not in a geographic sense, but in an ethical sense…the immoral realm of disobedience…The “world” represents the life of man apart from God and bound to sinful impulses. Thus, when scriptural writers speak of "the world," they often mean the world in so far as it is ethically separated from God...the world is that realm which is dominated by Satan and his standards…[and] must be interpreted [in many passages] as the kingdom of darkness, the city of reprobate man.

So, often in the New Testament when we are given commands about fleeing from worldliness, the command isn’t to retreat into monasticism or pietism, but to keep our minds and hearts from conforming to the wicked ways of "the world," meaning the ethical system characterized by Satan’s standards.

I think a better way to understand the passage in I Peter, however, is simply to allow Scripture to interpret Scripture. Many of Peter’s readers would have been familiar with the Older Testament and recalled the words of Jeremiah 29. Writing to exiles in Babylon, Jeremiah, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, penned these words:

Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

Then in verse 10 we read God’s promise, "When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place."

There are two things happening here. First, the people could look ahead to a future promise, a future restoration in their home. They had great and wonderful prospects for a future deliverance from exile. Likewise, so do Christians.

At the same time, they didn‘t eschew their responsibilities in history, for it is by God‘s providential hand that they had been placed in their circumstances. The language employed by Jeremiah--"build houses," "multiply there," "seek the welfare of the city"--echoes the language of the Cultural Mandate. It is, in short, the language of dominion.

What ties these two seemingly contradictory ideas together is the Christian understanding of service--or as Peter says in verse 12, having conduct that is honorable and doing good deeds.

Such deeds, empowered by the Holy Spirit, are ultimately blessed by God, who brings a harvest of souls as a result. Christians ultimately have different ideas about dominion than those in "the world." Non-believers make the mistake of assuming that power is simply wielded indiscriminately for personal benefit. Christians, on the other hand, believe that true power and authority stem from a foundation in service.

Think about the example we are to emulate in Christ. Matthew says, "whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:26-28). Paul says that "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: he humbled Himself and became obedient to death." And what was the result of His servanthood? Paul continues: "Therefore god exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name" (Phil. 2:5,9).

So we are to serve. Jesus says we are to seek first the kingdom of God, and ultimately success, or dominion--represented by the visible expansion of God’s Kingdom in every aspect of life--is accomplished by service to God, which is usually accomplished by serving other men and God’s creation.

Consider missionaries headed for an overseas appointment. They are leaving their home to become sojourners and aliens in a foreign. They’re ultimate home is heaven, but they are leaving the comforts of their temporal home behind. They will be subject to the laws of a new land and will learn to speak new languages, adapt where possible to new and strange customs--basically go native, all for the purpose of doing good to others and ultimately proclaiming the excellencies of God (I Peter 2:9). Sitting here in our wealthy and blessed land, we think this the height of spirituality. And yet, we are likewise aliens, in very similar circumstances, and our goal should be to carefully think through how to apply the same principles in our day-to-day lives.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Haphazard Ramblings

According to a report published in Lancet, the war has claimed the lives of 655,000 Iraqis. At a 95% confidence interval, the range of deaths is between 426,369 and 793,663. Keep in mind that Iraq is a country 1/12th the size of the United States. Start extrapolating those figures, even the "low" one, and it boggles the mind. George Bush, a statistician by training who is a real whiz with batting averages, questioned the "methodology" of the research saying it "is pretty well discredited." The Iraqi government, naturally, criticized the study, too, but even they admit that more than 300,000 Iraqis have fled their homes to other parts of the country to escape violence since 2003. Meanwhile, 890,000 Iraqis have moved to Jordan, Iran and Syria since Saddam's fall. The UN estimates that 315,000 Iraqis have fled their homes in the last eight months and that between 1.2 and 1.5 million Iraqis are hanging out in neighboring states. Though the numbers are all over the place, the point is we have created a humanitarian disaster which worsens as a result of our presence despite what liars in the administration, on capitol hill, and in the press corps tell us.

As for the Lancet study, most of the organizations tracking civilian deaths rely exclusively on media reports--in other words, they ignore huge swaths of the country. Likewise, "There are two reasons for thinking the survey might be more accurate than has been portrayed, both of which were not mentioned much yesterday. First, the researchers were able to duplicate, with different households, the results of a survey they conducted two years ago (which was also widely disputed) that put the death toll then at 100,000. And secondly, the pre-invasion mortality rate of 5.5 per 1,000 people per year, found in both surveys, is similar to the estimate used by the CIA and the U.S. Census Bureau." On top of this, the military will not report any numbers, and the Iraqi government recently took steps to bar the central morgue in Baghdad and the Health Ministry from releasing information about civilian deaths. So who are you going to believe? John's Hopkins researchers or the guys who said these things?

It turns out that Bush and the GOP have delayed the Second Coming of Christ.

The "coalition" in Iraq will soon shrink. Tony Blair must be the only man on the British Isles that still supports the war. Chief of the General Staff Sir Richard Dannatt says the presence of British armed forces in Iraq "exacerbates the security problems" and they should "get out some time soon."

After our invasion of Iraq, many Christians have found a comfortable home in Syria. You might think this would concern American Evangelicals. You would be wrong.

You mean all along the administration has known things were bad in Iraq and hasn't told us? Really, did you need Bob Woodward to tell you that?

European lefties, or "progressives," are hopping out of the closet, wondering if Islam might be incompatible with "European values." "A lot of people, progressive ones — we are not talking about nationalists or the extreme right — are saying, 'Now we have this religion, it plays a role and it challenges our assumptions about what we learned in the 60’s and 70’s,'" said Joost Lagendik, a Dutch member of the European Parliament for the Green Left Party. The Dutch are taking up the challenge by giving prospective newcomers a primer on those values: a DVD briefly showing topless women and two men kissing. Secularism is a thin reed on which to build a civilization and I doubt very much that Europeans can succeed in stemming the Islamic flood if the primary concern is nothing more than a defense of radical individualism--as symbolized by kooky feminism and homophilia.

Paul Craig Roberts on the case for impeachment and the decline of American character: "Claes Ryn is correct when he says a change of mind has occurred. The Constitution and the political system based on it are on the ropes because the players no longer believe in it. They believe in executive power to act forcefully in behalf of 'American exceptionalism.'"

Hysterics over at Focus on the Family say the world will come to end if the GOP loses control of Congress. Albert Mohler says that Christians sin, yes, sin, if they don't vote. You don't know where to start with such nonsense, but I'm pretty sure my conscience would be clean sitting out a Hitler-Stalin slugfest. But the point is clear, Christian conservatives have very little clout in the GOP, whose leaders think they're "nuts." If conservatives really want to get the attention of the GOP, perhaps they should stay home and let them take a drubbing.

Justin Raimondo makes the case for a tactical alliance between libertarians and the Democratic Party.

One wonders about the moral compass of such men. Charles Krauthammer writes that because the North Koreans have nukes we have to invade Iran:

This policy [deterrence] has a hitch, however. It works only in a world where there is but a single rogue nuclear state. Once that club expands to two, the policy evaporates, because a nuclear terror attack would no longer have a single automatic return address.

Which is another reason why keeping Iran from going nuclear is so important. With North Korea there is no going back. But Iran is not there yet. One rogue country is tolerable because it can be held accountable. Two rogue countries guarantees undeterrable and therefore inevitable nuclear terrorism.

Picture jailbird Jack Abramoff sitting at an NCAA hoops game with Bush Svengali Karl Rove. Between hot dogs and Budweiser they're busily discussing policy toward Israel, of course, and how much Mr. Bush looovvves Ariel Sharon. Rove manages to convince Abramoff that all the tough talk directed at the Israelis (try not to snicker) is little more than window dressing to mollify the Arabs in preparation for the coming war in Iraq. But wait a second. This conversation took place in March, 2002! You mean the administration really didn't take every possible step diplomatically to prevent war before they dragged the country into complete disarray in Mesopotamia?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Bad News For Diversity Mongers

Bad news for diversity mongers. Recent research by the influential political scientist Robert Putnam, of Bowling Alone fame, shows that the more diverse a community is, the less likely its inhabitants are to trust anyone.

PC to the core, Putnam delayed publishing his research until he developed proposals to ostensibly compensate for the negative effects of diversity. It "would have been irresponsible to publish without that," Putnam assures us. Isn’t it nice to see academics zealously pursuing the truth?

In the face of diversity, people tend to "hunker down" and surround themselves entirely with the familiar. "We act like turtles. The effect of diversity is worse than had been imagined. And it’s not just that we don’t trust people who are not like us. In diverse communities, we don’t trust people who do look like us," Putnam says.

Putnam adjusted his data for distinctions in class, income, and other variables but still reached the "shocking" conclusion that untrammeled ethnic diversity, rather than fostering cohesion, is a breeding ground of distrust that spreads like an aggressive cancer, destroying the body politic. "They don’t trust the local mayor, they don’t trust the local paper, they don’t trust other people and they don’t trust institutions," said Prof Putnam. "The only thing there’s more of is protest marches and TV watching."

Putnam found that trust was lowest in Los Angeles, that heaven on earth for mulitcultists everywhere, but that his findings were also applicable in South Dakota.

My libertarian friends ought to pay particular heed to these findings. As they don’t seem to be interested in protecting home, hearth, and nation from desecration and destruction, let me focus for just a brief moment on the god they do worship—the market. The fact is that a free market exists as part of social framework. While that framework needs a system of law to protect property rights, enforce contracts, prosecute practitioners of fraud, etc., it is also dependent on a rudimentary level of trust among the populace. If that trust is undermined, the foundation supporting the entire edifice crumbles, with the state being the institution forcefully putting the house back together.

Putnam’s response to his own findings likewise demonstrates the utter bankruptcy of the modern, liberal mind. A classical liberal like John Stuart Mill knew that free institutions are "next to impossible in a country made up of different nationalities." But speaking of immigration, Putnam says "that immigration materially benefited both the 'importing' and 'exporting' societies, and that trends have 'been socially constructed, and can be socially reconstructed.'"

Putnam went on to say that the host society should actually conform to mindset and needs of the alien. "What we shouldn’t do is to say that they [immigrants] should be more like us. We should construct a new us."

Perhaps Dr. Putnam should go bowling alone and stop giving policy advice at odds with his research findings.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Lobby in Action

Last March, two prominent members of the foreign policy establishment, University of Chicago political scientist John Mearsheimer and Harvard professor Stephen Walt, published an essay in a British publication pointing to the Big Elephant in the room driving so much of American foreign policy--the Israeli Lobby.

Through its efforts on Capitol Hill and in managing public debate over Israel, The Lobby has stifled any open debate over the influence exerted by a foreign power. It "doesn’t want an open debate, of course, because that might lead Americans to question the level of support they provide. Accordingly, pro-Israel organisations work hard to influence the institutions that do most to shape popular opinion."

The Lobby, says Mearsheimer and Walt, "strives to ensure that public discourse portrays Israel in a positive light, by repeating myths about its founding and by promoting its point of view in policy debates. The goal is to prevent critical comments from getting a fair hearing in the political arena. Controlling the debate is essential to guaranteeing US support, because a candid discussion of US-Israeli relations might lead Americans to favour a different policy."

One recent example of the power exerted by The Lobby occurred in New York City, as reported by the Washington Post. Jewish historian Tony Judt, a critic of Israeli policy, was slated to speak to a non-profit group that rents space from the Polish consulate.

An hour before Judt's arrival, the speech was canceled after the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee made Polish Consul General Krzysztof Kasprzyk an offer he couldn't refuse.

"The phone calls were very elegant but may be interpreted as exercising a delicate pressure," Kasprzyk said. "That's obvious -- we are adults and our IQs are high enough to understand that."

Judt was naturally a bit peeved by this naked attempt at censorship. "This is serious and frightening, and only in America -- not in Israel -- is this a problem," he said. "These are Jewish organizations that believe they should keep people who disagree with them on the Middle East away from anyone who might listen."

Judt was accused of spinning wild conspiracy theories. AJC Executive Director David A. Harris, said, "I never asked for a particular action; I was calling as a friend of Poland. The message of that evening was going to be entirely contrary to the entire spirit of Polish foreign policy."

American foreign policy is significantly constrained and constrained by our undue fondess for another state, something George Washington warned about more than two centuries ago. "The nation which indulges toward another an habitual hatred or an habitual fondness is in some degree a slave...A passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others, which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill will, and a disposition to retaliate in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld; and it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation) facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country without odium, sometimes even with popularity, gilding with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation."

Are North Korean Nukes So Bad?

The revelation that North Korea apparently tested a nuclear device set off a flurry of tongue wagging and finger pointing.

Republicans, unwilling to shoulder any responsibility for their failures, blamed Bill Clinton. Meanwhile, the Democrats blamed Dubya for his unwillingness to "engage" directly in unilateral discussion with the Dear Leader. Yeah, you know, the Dems are all about acting unilaterally when unceasing multilateral approaches are on the menu.

But instead of lamenting the latest news, perhaps we should seek out the silver lining instead.

It is past time to junk the hegemonist mindset of Neocons who view global diplomacy as a game a Risk, and admit that American interests would be greatly advanced by encouraging South Korea, Japan, and India, for that matter, to arm themselves as a check on Chinese influence and power. Likewise, the nuke test has put the North Koreans at odds with their Chinese benefactors and represents an opportunity for the U.S. to exert greater influence in the region, not less.

Further, it is now clear that American soldiers manning the DMZ "are now as much hostages to the North Korean military as they are defenders of the South." In short, this provides an opportunity to pull up a tripwire in Asia.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Churchy News

Evangelical leaders are concerned that they're losing the kids. "Their alarm has been stoked by a highly suspect claim that if current trends continue, only 4 percent of teenagers will be 'Bible-believing Christians' as adults. That would be a sharp decline compared with 35 percent of the current generation of baby boomers, and before that, 65 percent of the World War II generation." Is the claim "highly suspect?" According to the Southern Baptist Council on Family Life, 88% of the children of SBC parents leave church at 18 and never return. Part of the problem is that the Christian family has allowed itself to be subsumed by the culture. But church's too, who don't value family worship, and prefer to segment and separate children from their parents are partly to blame as well.

John Lofton has some fun with statist pseudo-Christian and shouting head Bill O'Reilly.

A plea to James Dobson: Be not unequally yoked with the unholy--Get out of the GOP. "The Republican Party has become a conglomerate of special interests. Christians are now standing shoulder-to-shoulder in a party that supports homosexual candidates, pro-abortion candidates, and those who support homosexual marriage."

I guess we’ll see in another month or so, but this article claims that Evangelical support for the GOP, actually the Bushies, is falling precipitously. A nationwide poll found that 57 percent of white evangelicals are inclined to vote for Republican congressional candidates in the midterm elections, a 21-point drop from 2004. Just 42% think that Republicans govern "in a more honest and ethical way" than Democrats. Even the percentage who support keeping troops in Iraq has dropped to 55 percent, from 68 percent in early September. The beginning of a trend? I doubt it. It strikes me almost every time I talk to a believer about civil government, it's Biblical purposes, limitations, etc. that they haven't given the matter more than a passing thought.

Is it possible that Pentecostals could represent 1 in 4 Christians around the world? A few years, ago I heard Philip Jenkins lecture on global trends in Christianity, and it is clear that the complexion, literally and metaphorically, of Christianity will change in coming decades as it’s center moves to the southern hemisphere and becomes increasingly charismatic in nature. I’m not sure what to make of such trends, but as Christians we ought to be at least thinking about it.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

News and Notes From the "War on Terror"

Sorry about the blogging dearth. I've been studying I Peter during much of my free time lately. I'm not sure yet, but it could spawn some theological ravings here at Dow Blog in the near future. Stay tuned.

Back to it...

Are even Republicans finally beginning to have second thoughts about the war? John Warner, the former Mr. Taylor, GOP "statesman," and pooh-bah-in-chief of the Senate Armed Services Committee says that Iraq is "going sideways." Warner says nothing should be off the table and it might be time to change course. Gee, you think?

Meanwhile, the situation continues to deteriorate on the ground. The number of car bombs in Baghdad, both detonated and defused, hit their highest level of the year last week. Meanwhile, the Iraqi Interior Ministry suspended an entire police brigade, citing suspicions that some members permitted or participated in death squad killings.

It looks like American casualties are on the rise as well. "The number of U.S troops wounded in Iraq has surged to its highest monthly level in nearly two years as American GIs fight block-by-block in Baghdad to try to check a spiral of sectarian violence that U.S. commanders warn could lead to civil war."

According to this LA Times story, Iraq has devolved into multiple conflicts with American troops caught in the middle. "American troops find themselves in the crossfire, caught among foreign militants, Sunni Muslim nationalist rebels, Shiite Muslim militiamen and other armed groups — all fighting each other." Really, did the Bushies and the arrogant Neocons who agitated for blood not see this coming?

A fine article in the American Conservative by Paul Schroeder on the "Bright Promise of Failure" in Iraq. Schroeder says that Americans need to be shorn of utopian expectations regarding foreign policy:

One requirement for reaping any profit from accepting failure in Iraq, then, is a clear anti-utopian sense of history, a willingness to recognize and respect limits and reject self-delusion—something any reasonably educated, sensible person can develop. It also helps if we avoid some natural but erroneous assumptions about what accepting failure in foreign policy involves. It is not simply a first preliminary step, a matter of seeing that you are in a hole and should stop digging. It involves a rigorous, active search for the deeper causes of failure and thus becomes a strategic maneuver, a way of seeking and creating conditions needed for climbing out of the hole

In the misnamed "war on terror," the object has to be keeping the enemy off-balance, not swatting at gnats with heavy armaments:

Americans, led by their government, seem incapable of understanding that this worldwide contest is not a shootout at the OK Corral but judo. The object is not to eliminate the opponent but to unbalance and overthrow him, using his own offensive lunges to do so. Osama bin Laden, the Taliban, the Iraqi insurgents, even Saddam himself understood that, with the result that America, though incomparably stronger, has been thrown off balance far more than they.

This understanding of the contest as a long-term political, legal struggle to uphold the rule of law rather than a war, and judo rather than a gunfight, must also change the American definition of success. The administration, with most of the media and many voters in tow, has consistently defined victory in terms of missions supposedly accomplished, positive gains allegedly achieved.

In short, we need a redefinition of victory, which Schroeder supplies:

In this contest, as in the 19th-century contest of legitimate regimes against revolution, victory cannot mean crushing the evil and establishing the reign of Freedom and Democracy throughout the world by glorious victories on the battlefield or elsewhere, but (in the words of Austria’s Prince Metternich) outliving the evil. That is not compromise or surrender. It means ensuring that one’s own values, institutions, and way of life survive and ultimately thrive while those who would overthrow them are gradually marginalized and ultimately die out. That is the only kind of victory in this contest America can achieve or should aspire to.

Schroeder's assessment is generally upbeat, until his conclusion, where he says that any rational policy in the Middle East will likely be stifled by our undue yoking to the Israeli state:

The insuperable, structural obstacle to a serious pursuit of success in the Middle East through accepting failure in Iraq, the elephant in the room that I have carefully avoided mentioning hitherto, is Israel. More precisely, it is not Israel itself or its actions, but the fact that the United States has deliberately forfeited control over its policy toward Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian and Arab-Israeli conflicts that form one critical aspect of the Middle East imbroglio. While the U.S. could conceivably change its policy and aims in regard to all its other vital aspects—Iraq, Iran, oil, regional security, even terrorism—I see no possibility that any party, administration, or American public will take the steps needed to regain that essential control

Rice and Rummy ignored warnings about a possible al-Qaida attack. Condi says she just doesn't have any recollection of such a meeting.

Senator Frist says we need a political solution in Afghanistan and that any settlement would have to incorporate the Taliban. He's right, but don't look for any rational discussion of this issue because it is a political no-go.