Thursday, February 23, 2006

Brave New World, Civil War in Iraq, Pink Priests

A very interesting essay by William Lind in the latest TAC. Lind argues that the "war on terror" is ultimately a battle between the forces of medieval Islam and Huxley's Brave New World. "Sadly," says Lind, "the march toward Brave New World is led by the United States." Lind says Christians must not choose a "lesser of two evils" strategy:

What is an American who loves the country he once had, and is even more deeply devoted to the old Western culture than that country reflected, to do? Choosing the lesser of two evils is not an option because if there is one thing Brave New World and the Fourth Generation agree on it is that "Western culture’s got to go." The proper answer to a choice of death by hanging or by firing squad is to refuse to participate in one’s own murder.

Rather, we must do what seems impossible. We must rally the remnants of Western Christian civilization to fight Brave New World and the Fourth Generation simultaneously. Perhaps, as when the Roman Empire fell, all we will be able to accomplish is to keep the Holy Faith and (some) knowledge alive in the monasteries, whatever those may prove to be in our time. Much was then lost, but enough survived to enable the Christian West to rise again...

We do know where to turn. In the West, and perhaps beyond the West, survival will mean turning back, back to the old ideas, old ways of living, old morals and old faith. They have not been gone, or almost so, for so long that they are forgotten. Our task now is to take them down off the shelves, polish them up, and fit them once again for service. When the vacuum appears, we, as cultural conservatives, can and must be ready to fill it. Whoever fills it successfully will be the winner of the war between the Fourth Generation and Brave New World.


Looks like the Episcopal Church could elevate another homosexual to the office of Bishop:

An openly gay man and lesbian woman are among the five candidates vying to become California's eighth Episcopal bishop. The church announced the list of potential candidates on Monday, February 20.

Both Chicago's Bonnie Perry and Seattle's Robert V. Taylor are talented financial administrators with strong experience in congregational renewal and mission outreach. They preside over vibrant, growing churches and both earned their Masters of Divinity Degrees from New York's progressive Union Theological Seminary. Each is in a long-term partnership


Is anyone shocked to read this?

Secret Service agents guarding Vice President Dick Cheney when he shot Texas lawyer Harry Whittington on a hunting outing two weeks ago say Cheney was "clearly inebriated" at the time of the shooting.

Agents observed several members of the hunting party, including the Vice President, consuming alcohol before and during the hunting expedition, the report notes, and Cheney exhibited "visible signs" of impairment, including slurred speech and erratic actions.


Civil war, what civil war? I know that as a global empire we can simply create our own reality, according to poohbahs in the White House, but the rest of us ought not be deluded. The situation in Iraq is such that American troops will soon be refereeing a Sunni-Shiite contest: "Iraq is in a Weimar period like Germany in the 1920s which will either end with the country disintegrating or in an authoritarian government taking power."

Wall Street Journal editors write, "that this week's glimpse of hell [in Iraq] will be the medicine that pushes Iraq away from the brink." Why the optimism? The Journal quite hilariously tells readers that Iraqis are just like rootless, deracinated Americans: "Most Iraqis pride themselves on their cosmopolitanism and bridle at questions about their ethnic or sectarian background. 'I am an Iraqi' is a common reply." The Journal says, "Critics of President Bush's Iraq policy have been predicting--and, in some cases, hoping--that without Saddam's iron rule the country was destined for sectarian civil war." In fact, quite the opposite is true. Neocon wunderkinds Doug Feith, Richard Perle, and David Wurmser wrote a paper on behalf of Israel's Likkud Party in support of a policy whereby Israel would "destabilize, and roll-back some of its most dangerous threats," and called the removal of Saddam Hussein “an important Israeli strategic objective." In 1997 Wurmser wrote: "The residual unity of the nation is an illusion projected by the extreme repression of the state." After Saddam, Iraq would "be ripped apart by the politics of warlords, tribes, clans, sects, and key families," he wrote. "Underneath facades of unity enforced by state repression, [Iraq’s] politics is defined primarily by tribalism, sectarianism, and gang/clan-like competition." Contra the Journal, civil war wasn't merely predicted by administration critics, but may have been the whole point.

Why, oh why haven't I been reading Fred? Here are some typically witty pieces on "the strange little man in the White House," elite hatred of Christianity, and Intelligent Design.

Ed Rubenstein is still looking for jobs Americans won't do.

Buchanan on Gingrich: "A little learning can be a dangerous thing."

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Tower of Psychobabble

II Cor. 6:14
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?

I John 2:15
15Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.


Usually when the subject of "unequal yoking" is broached, the implicit assumption is that the discussion is centered on the issue of marriage. But I want to consider it in something of a broader context.

I contend that much too frequently, the church makes peace with alien and hostile worldviews, allowing the true and undiluted faith to be polluted and ultimately weakened. For example, the importation of Hellenistic and Aristotelian thought into Christianity via the vehicle of Scholasticism had a harmful impact on the faith and ultimately led to antinomianism, mysticism, asceticism, etc.

Today, various ideological enemies do battle with Christianity. Here at Dow Blog, I have been particularly concerned about the heresies of Egalitarianism and Statism. But the church has also been infected with the virus of contemporary popular culture and the poisonous sophistries of humanistic psychology.

According to Scripture, the church is the body of Christ (I Cor. 12) and performs particular functions. Luke provides details in Acts 2:41-42: "Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." We see here that evangelism, instruction, and participation in prayer and fellowship are central tasks of the church.

Though evangelism is biblically mandated (Matt. 28:18-20), we don't see that as a central function of the gathered church. In other words, when believers come together, they do so for the purpose of worshipping and glorifying God, encouraging and spurring their brethren, and being taught the undiluted Word of God. It is as the church disperses into the world that evangelism properly takes place. In fact, the Great Commission can be translated as a command to make disciples as you go.

Yet, the contemporary church in its desire to build a body acceptable to Saddleback Sam and unchurched Harry and Mary has turned worship into an entertainment spectacle and the proclamation of the Gospel into little more than the ravings of the high priests of modern psychobabble.

Part of the problem is television. Neil Postman, no Evangelical Christian to be sure, helpfully explained the cultural impact of television on various facets of contemporary life, including Christianity, in his brilliant book “Amusing Ourselves to Death.” "Christianity is a demanding and serious religion," says Postman. "When it is delivered as easy and amusing, it is another kind of religion altogether… There is no doubt, in other words, that religion can be made entertaining. The question is, by doing so, do we destroy it."

Jewish media commentator Neal Gabler argues similarly to Postman: "Evangelical Protestantism, which had begun as a kind of spiritual entertainment in the nineteenth century, only refined its techniques in the twentieth, especially after the advent of television. Televangelists like Oral Roberts and Jimmy Swaggart recast the old revival meeting as a television variety show, and Pat Robertson’s 700 Club was modeled after the Tonight Show, only the guests on this talk show weren’t pitching a new movie or album; they were pitching salvation."

Watch much of what passes for "Christian Television" these days and you will see vividly on display what Postman and Gabler are talking about. Many contemporary pastors and churches have more in common with Dr. Phil and the Church of Oprah than the Apostle Paul and the Church of Jesus Christ. In the hands of such men, Christianity is reduced to "living your best life now" or a Peale-esque power of positive thinking.

The Gospel calls believers to suffering and self-denial, not autonomous self-fulfillment. Even the call to exercise dominion is ultimately a call to servant-leadership where authority is derived from God. The message of the Bible is about God's redemptive work in creation, not about life's purpose. The most essential elements of Christianity are the cross and the resurrection, an event that goes unmentioned in a book outlining God's purpose for man by America’s best-known Evangelical pastor.

The mutilated, seeker-sensitive gospel sees individuals as seekers coming to Christ in order to find purpose in life rather than to receive forgiveness from sin and the righteousness of God. There is little here of sin, grace, faith and repentance or the person of Christ and his atoning death and victory in resurrection. The need of the hour is to reform our churches, to recover the simple message of the Gospel and place it at the center of our preaching. The church must be about the business of preaching the glory of God's redemptive program and the wonder of God’s grace coupled with the necessity of repentance. Let’s leave the psychobabble behind and end our captivity to the things of this world.

Friday, February 17, 2006

More Ecclesiastical Follies

It isn't just the "theological liberals" bringing disrepute to the Church. Conservatives are doing their fair share, too. For example, we have the sad and sordid affair surrounding the deposing of R. C. Sproul Jr. and the elders at St. Peter Presbyterian Church.

I haven't followed this spectacle closely, though I've always admired R. C. As a Baptist bumpkin, I can't quite follow the ins-and-outs of Presbyterian ecclesiology, but this document lays out in odious detail some real problems at St. Peter.

When looking for wisdom and clarification on the web, I quickly grasp the mouse, pound on my keyboard and visit Dave Black Online. Dave was writing about the importance of personal piety in our pastors. Christianity cannot be headless but knowledge is not enough, we must also have loving hearts and obedient feet. His words from February 17th were not directly related to the Sproul affair but are nonetheless applicable and resonate with power:

Today we hear vociferous criticism of those who express disapproval of ungodly pastors as though censure of such were unbiblical. It does not matter, however, to what extent an elder may be given honors and titles if he ignores the weightier matters of integrity, truthfulness, and honesty. “Approved of men” does not mean popularity and the endorsement of carnal Christians. It means that the supreme test of our Christianity is not our orthodoxy or what we publish in our books but the Spirit of Christ in our daily living. Schisms, then, have a surprising usefulness – they reveal the tested and approved ones. That is a great blessing to the church of Jesus Christ!


There is plenty of silliness in Colorado, too, where Focus on the Family's James Dobson has been taking heat from some Christians for his endorsement of a bill that will extend various legal protections to homosexuals. Dobson's denials notwithstanding, the legislation will expand numerous legal rights to non-married households that have always existed only between married couples. Moreover, in his public statements Dr. Dobson has indicated that he has no qualms with the State attacking property rights in the name of "fairness" and "equality under the law." "What this bill is that we have endorsed is a fairness bill with regard to need, not sexual relationships," said Dobson in a recent broadcast of the Focus on the Family radio program. Of course, that makes his position identical to virtually every other evangelical leader. Apparently, Dobson and company think that the Bible requires a man to hire a homosexual but puts no obligation on civil authorities to protect property rights.

Finally, there is the global phenom that is Rick Warren. Whether it's a quick stop at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, a presidential prayer breakfast in Washington, or an entertainment industry confab in L.A., Warren is in demand. Warren recently took time out of his busy schedule to compare "fundamentalist" Christianity with Islam. "I'm so tired of Christians being known for what they're against," said Warren. Warren thinks the church should pick up the mantle of social action. Pastor Rick wants to take us back to the 19th century. He recalls wistfully the church's role in abolishing slavery, ending child labor, and winning the right for women to vote. Swell. Now we can see where he gets daffy schemes like saving the planet from global warming. Yeah, there's lots in Scripture about the 14th and 19th amendments, not to mention the Kyoto Protocol.

More on the Decline of Theological Liberalism

The Washington Post reports that the Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire, Vickie Eugene Robinson, is being treated for alcoholism. You may recall that Robinson divorced his wife to live with a gay lover and instead of being disciplined was elevated to the office of bishop.

When asked if his sexual behavior required repentance, Robinson replied, "It is not something of which I should repent and I have no intention of doing so. I have been led to understand that I am loved by God just as I am. That is not to say I am perfect but it is my belief that my orientation is value-neutral. It is what I do with my relationship that God really cares about."

So his "orientation is value-neutral." It's only his "relationship" that is of concern to God. Robinson then gets to the crux of the matter, the abandonment of Scriptural authority. "We worship a living God," says Robinson, "not one locked up in the Scripture of 2,000 years ago." What does it say about a church that one of its bishops can make such a remark?

For more good stuff from Robinson, you can check out his interview with the butchers over at Planned Parenthood where he defends the "right to choose" and compares his trip out of the closet with the Exodus story.


Let's see, what did Paul say were the qualifications for an
overseer?

If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.


On the plus side, Robinson is apparently "well thought of by outsiders." He was greeted with hosannas at New York's gay pride parade last spring.

Pagan Church USA

Wow, this is hard to believe. According to "number crunchers," the Presbyterian Church (USA) is projected to lose record numbers of members in 2005 and 2006. The report provided no comment as to why folks are leaving the PC-USA in droves.

The PC-USA lost 1.3 million members between 1965 and 1992. But other liberal denominations face similar travails. The Episcopalians, United Churches of Christ, Evangelical Lutherans, American Baptists, and United Methodists all had significant declines during the 1990's.

Meanwhile, more orthodox denominations, such as the SBC, PCA, Alliance churches, etc. all experienced significant growth.

Why has this occurred? I would argue that it has to do with the growing apostasy in liberal denominations. The rejection of the authority of Scripture and the divine and all-encompassing claims of Christian truth is leading to the death of liberal Protestantism.

The PC-USA, for example, has made peace with radical feminism, various strains of paganism, and homosexualism--going so far as to condemn homophobia and "heterosexism." The PC-USA is also a member of the Religious Coalition for
Abortion Rights
.

On the issue of homosexuality and the broader matter of the purity of the marriage bed, the PC-USA issued a report called "Sexuality, Spirituality and Social Justice, in which was written the following: "The moral for Christians ought not be marriage, but rather justice-love. ... Where there is justice-love, sexual expression has ethical integrity. That moral principle applies to single, as well as to married, persons, to gay, lesbian and bisexual persons, as well as to heterosexual persons." So shacking up is OK, including with members of the same sex, as long is it is done in the spirit of "justice-love." What?

The same pattern of Biblical infidelity is present in the Evangelical Lutheran Church. The "Task Force for Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Studies on Sexuality" issued a report last year attempting to avoid dealing with issues of gay ordination and same-sex marriage. The report asked, but did not answer, the fundamental question:

Many people have asked for a simple answer to the question: Does the Bible say that sexual activity between two people of the same sex is always a sin? This question is near the heart of the division of opinion in our church because Christians who are faithful to God’s Word give different answers. Among other responses that could be mentioned, some say the teaching of the Bible is clear and condemns such activities as sinful, while some say that the verses in the Bible usually cited do not apply to a love relationship between two consenting adults in a committed relationship. In this matter the ELCA needs to continue in prayerful study of Scripture with one another.


Boldly on display for all to see is the attack on the authority of Scripture that is at the heart of the homosexualist assault. The equivocation on display reveals a deeper divide over fundamental issues of doctrine, biblical authority, and ecclesiology.

In prior statements, the ELCA defined marriage as "a lifelong covenant of faithfulness between a man and a woman." And the task force itself said that same-sex unions are "quite distinct from and in no way equivalent to marriage."

So marriage is the cleaving together of a man and a woman, but the ELCA needs more time in prayer and study because sodomy might be just dandy as long as it is part of a "committed relationship." How much study is required to figure that out? Didn't anyone have a Bible on hand?

Reasons to Avoid Institutional Education

I hope to eventually write a few posts explaining why Kathy and I will be educating our children at home. But for now, let's just say I'm trying to avoid things like this:

When Emma arrived home the previous Saturday night clutching a goody bag from Glove Affair, my liberal credentials were instantly tested. One by one I pulled the following from her white plastic sack: a condom; pamphlets on masturbation, oral sex and intercourse; the "Rubber Bible," featuring alternative names for prophylactics, such as "gent tent" and "peenie beanie"; and an information wheel labeled "Condom Comebacks," which included a list of excuses boys might make for not wearing a condom and possible rejoinders a girl could offer.

Him: "It doesn't feel good."

Her: "I've got moves rubbers can't stop."

I tried to play it cool. As it turned out, I was a little too cool. While standing in the kitchen with my daughter and her friend, getting all the post-party gossip, I absentmindedly reached into the bag and handed my 8-year-old son a squishy red toy that resembled one of those ubiquitous M&M candy guys.

The girls burst out laughing. "What's so funny?" I asked. They snatched the trinket from my son and turned it upside down. Printed there was the web address stopthesores.org. This was no candy icon; it was a toy syphilis lesion, bright red, with feet...

Oakwood School in North Hollywood, where my daughter is in eighth grade, has been holding Glove Affair since 2000. In reality, it's not a "condom party" but a fundraiser for L.A. AIDS-prevention groups. This year, about 500 teens attended — half from other middle and high schools across the city.

The aim is for kids to understand that having sex is serious business and to help them become utterly at ease with condoms, right down to unrolling them correctly and learning to check the expiration date. Mickey Morgan, a social studies teacher at Oakwood who helps organize the event, says that's especially important for girls "so that it's not awkward for them to talk about safe sex with boys — when the time comes."



I've also been perusing the work of former teacher John Taylor Gatto (read his book here). Here a few choice quotes from Gatto:

From his essay, "Institutional Schooling Must Be Destroyed":

Forced schooling in America served a dual function: l) The creation of a mindless proletariat stripped of its traditions of lib-erty, independence, fidelity to God, loyalty to family and land. 2) The creation of a professional proletariat, suitably specialized to serve functionally in a highly centralized corporate/bureaucratic economy.

Next, a mass mind had to be created, a mind lacking critical dimen-sion dedicated to the proposition that one got ahead by pleasing authority, and trained to regard advancement principally as the road to increasing one's consumption. Forced schooling was (and is) the vehicle which drove the young to this end. The 20,000 walled and gated communities of America, a number rapidly growing, are only one of the tributes our disintegrating society pays to the class habits learned in school.


On "The Tyranny of Compulsory Education":

Let me speak to you about dumbness because that is what schools teach best. Old-fashioned dumbness used to be simple ignorance: you didn't know something, but there were ways to find out if you wanted to. Government-controlled schooling didn't eliminate dumbness - in fact, we now know that people read more fluently before we had forced schooling - but dumbness was transformed.

Now dumb people aren't just ignorant; they're the victims of the non-thought of secondhand ideas. Dumb people are now well-informed about the opinions of Time magazine and CBS, The New York Times and the President; their job is to choose which pre-thought thoughts, which received opinions, they like best. The élite in this new empire of ignorance are those who know the most pre-thought thoughts.

Mass dumbness is vital to modern society. The dumb person is wonderfully flexible clay for psychological shaping by market research, government policymakers; public-opinion leaders, and any other interest group. The more pre-thought thoughts a person has memorized, the easier it is to predict what choices he or she will make. What dumb people cannot do is think for themselves or ever be alone for very long without feeling crazy. That is the whole point of national forced schooling; we aren't supposed to be able to think for ourselves because independent thinking gets in the way of "professional" think-ing, which is believed to follow rules of scientific precision.


From his Harper's essay, "Against School":

Once you understand the logic behind modern schooling, its tricks and traps are fairly easy to avoid. School trains children to be employees and consumers; teach your own to be leaders and adventurers. School trains children to obey reflexively; teach your own to think critically and independently. Well-schooled kids have a low threshold for boredom; help your own to develop an inner life so that they'll never be bored. Urge them to take on the serious material, the grown-up material, in history, literature, philosophy, music, art, economics, theology - all the stuff schoolteachers know well enough to avoid. Challenge your kids with plenty of solitude so that they can learn to enjoy their own company, to conduct inner dialogues. Well-schooled people are conditioned to dread being alone, and they seek constant companionship through the TV, the computer, the cell phone, and through shallow friendships quickly acquired and quickly abandoned. Your children should have a more meaningful life, and they can.

First, though, we must wake up to what our schools really are: laboratories of experimentation on young minds, drill centers for the habits and attitudes that corporate society demands. Mandatory education serves children only incidentally; its real purpose is to turn them into servants. Don't let your own have their childhoods extended, not even for a day. If David Farragut could take command of a captured British warship as a pre-teen, if Thomas Edison could publish a broadsheet at the age of twelve, if Ben Franklin could apprentice himself to a printer at the same age (then put himself through a course of study that would choke a Yale senior
today), there's no telling what your own kids could do.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Random Items

I was cruising through Carmon Friedrich's blog and came across this gem by Alan Carlson. You may recall that I wrote an article some time ago on the issue of deliberate childlessness. I haven't yet been able to conclude if this phenomenon is the result of economic choices, or has to do more with changing religious presuppositions. Carlson argues that one reason, among many, for the increasing lateness of marriage is the vast amount of debt incurred by students attending college. Quite thought provoking.

Cato Institute foreign policy maven Ted Galen Carpenter destroys the dubious assumptions undergirding our coming invasion of Iran.

Tom Fleming dissects the Danish cartoon flap.

Paul Craig Roberts on his epiphany, Colin Powell as "Yes Man," and how conservatives lost their minds.

I don't watch many movies these days, but I did catch "Cinderella Man" the other night. Well worth a rental. Here are couple reviews from unlikely sources: Russell Moore and Pat Buchanan. Russell Crowe as pugilist, however, lost a bit of sheen when my brother told me that Joe Sobran's daughter beat up Crowe on the set of the lousy "Master and Commander."

I've seen a spate of stories over the last few days that "The Right" is beginning to bash Bush. Right, the president has a lot to fear from congressional Republicans and bootlickers like Jonah Goldberg! Give me a break.

Is the president above the law? Pat Roberts says so:

Roberts, a staunch defender of Bush's right to spy on who he wants, whenever he wants and however he wants, told Russert that Bush can, and should, ignore the law when he feels it is in the best interest of national security.

That prompted Russert to ask:

"Senator Roberts, let me ask you a very serious question. Do you believe that the Constitution gives the President of the United States the authority to do anything he believes is necessary to protect the country?"

To which Roberts replied: "Yes."

Roberts later said he believed the President's authority was "above laws passed by Congress." In other words, George W. Bush is a dictator with absolute authority and no one, not the law and certainly not Congress, has the power to question or override that authority.


So I got my daily email from "Focus on the Family" this morning. Humorously, they seem to think that there will be a serious attempt made to amend the Constitution so as to prevent the legalization of same-sex marriage. Poor delusional fools. Meanwhile, according to the Denver Post, Dobson and company have expressed "support for state legislation that would provide expanded legal benefits for same-sex couples and other non-traditional households." Here is more on Dobson's support of benefits for homosexuals.

The NY Times reports that the U.S. and Israelis are hatching a plan to destabilize the democratically elected government of the Palestinian Authority. You mean they don't really believe in democracy?

Liberal churches across the United States took time out of their busy schedules blessing gay unions to celebrate the birth of...Charles Darwin. You just can't make this stuff up. Later in the year maybe we can all celebrate the births of Nietzsche and Freud.

More on the pipeline of Iraqi WMDs that allegedly migrated to Syria along with those millions in mass graves that haven't materialized just yet. Never mind, go back to the Fox News and U2.

Chris Ortiz writes some interesting stuff at the Chalcedon blog. Here is an example.

Is Rick Warren hawking his books to Jews? Looks like it: "According to Synagogue 3000, an umbrella organization pushing for synagogue transformation, there was 'a pathbreaking meeting with Rick Warren ('The Purpose-Driven Life'), founding pastor of Saddleback Church' – an evangelical Christian church that average over 30,000 worshippers each weekend - to explore what synagogues can learn from mega-churches and small groups."

Sunday, February 12, 2006

More Evidence of Distorted Intel

Who knows whether this will make any difference or not, but there is yet more evidence that the Bushies fixed intelligence around the policy of regime change.

Foreign Affairs is publishing an article by Paul Pillar, who served as National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005. In this capacity, Pillar was responsible to coordinate all of the intelligence community's assessments regarding Iraq.

It is interesting that these charges are gracing the flagship publication of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). The CFR is a who's who of the liberal, internationalist foreign policy establishment. These are "New World Order" types who get along just swell with old-man Bush, Jim Baker, Brent Scowcroft and the whole crowd from the Bush I presidency. In short, these characters are the enemy of America First paleos like yours truly.

What's interesting is that those characters now seem infinitely preferable to the neocrazy crowd that has seized the ship of state.

In any case, I'm just going to repeat of a few choice nuggets from the essay. Please read the rest for yourself.

Pillar says:

"In the wake of the Iraq war, it has become clear that official intelligence analysis was not relied on in making even the most significant national security decisions, that intelligence was misused publicly to justify decisions already made, that damaging ill will developed between policymakers and intelligence officers, and that the intelligence community's own work was politicized."

"A view broadly held in the United States and even more so overseas was that deterrence of Iraq was working, that Saddam was being kept "in his box," and that the best way to deal with the weapons problem was through an aggressive inspections program to supplement the sanctions already in place...If the entire body of official intelligence analysis on Iraq had a policy implication, it was to avoid war -- or, if war was going to be launched, to prepare for a messy aftermath."

"The administration used intelligence not to inform decision-making, but to justify a decision already made. It went to war without requesting -- and evidently without being influenced by -- any strategic-level intelligence assessments on any aspect of Iraq."

"The Bush administration deviated from the professional standard not only in using policy to drive intelligence, but also in aggressively using intelligence to win public support for its decision to go to war. This meant selectively adducing data --'cherry-picking' -- rather than using the intelligence community's own analytic judgments. In fact, key portions of the administration's case explicitly rejected those judgments."

"In the upside-down relationship between intelligence and policy that prevailed in the case of Iraq, the administration selected pieces of raw intelligence to use in its public case for war, leaving the intelligence community to register varying degrees of private protest when such use started to go beyond what analysts deemed credible or reasonable."

"Another problem is that on Iraq, the intelligence community was pulled over the line into policy advocacy -- not so much by what it said as by its conspicuous role in the administration's public case for war. This was especially true when the intelligence community was made highly visible (with the director of central intelligence literally in the camera frame) in an intelligence-laden presentation by Secretary of State Colin Powell to the UN Security Council a month before the war began. It was also true in the fall of 2002, when, at the administration's behest, the intelligence community published a white paper on Iraq's WMD programs -- but without including any of the community's judgments about the likelihood of those weapons' being used."

"The intelligence community never offered any analysis that supported the notion of an alliance between Saddam and al Qaeda. Yet it was drawn into a public effort to support that notion."

"The actual politicization of intelligence occurs subtly and can take many forms. Context is all-important. Well before March 2003, intelligence analysts and their managers knew that the United States was heading for war with Iraq. It was clear that the Bush administration would frown on or ignore analysis that called into question a decision to go to war and welcome analysis that supported such a decision. Intelligence analysts -- for whom attention, especially favorable attention, from policymakers is a measure of success -- felt a strong wind consistently blowing in one direction. The desire to bend with such a wind is natural and strong, even if unconscious."

"That is what happened when the Bush administration repeatedly called on the intelligence community to uncover more material that would contribute to the case for war. The Bush team approached the community again and again and pushed it to look harder at the supposed Saddam-al Qaeda relationship -- calling on analysts not only to turn over additional Iraqi rocks, but also to turn over ones already examined and to scratch the dirt to see if there might be something there after all. The result was an intelligence output that -- because the question being investigated was never put in context -- obscured rather than enhanced understanding of al Qaeda's actual sources of strength and support."

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Ecclesiastical Follies

As an intrepid chronicler of the cultural landscape, I must occasionally do some unpleasant and reprehensible things, including watch "Hannity and Colmes," listen to Rush Limbaugh, and read Ann Coulter.

Then there are those fun projects that lead to the emission of giant belly laughs, such as reading the Louisville Courier Journal and watching Christian television. I can always find something on TBN to scare the kids. Jack Van Impe carrying on about human/animal hybrids or Benny Hinn knocking down half an arena with a little bit of hocus pocus. Ah, good stuff!

Saturday evening, I was channel surfing quickly before hitting the sack and stumbled across "The Hour of Power." The Rev. Robert A. Schuller was speaking about his plan to increase membership at the Crystal Cathedral to one million. Yes, you read that right, one million members.

I was concerned that a fairly serious building project would have to be undertaken, and then I read an L. A. Times article that explained Schuller's scheme. According to the Times, "The other main goal of the new senior pastor is to recruit as church members a million people around the world who watch the 'Hour of Power' broadcasts or view church programs on the Internet."

That begs the question: Does it matter if a Christian joins a local church?

Church membership entails a commitment to formally join a body of believers for the purpose of living visibly obedient lives before Jesus Christ, and the world. The people of God exist to demonstrate God's glory (I Peter 2:9, Is. 43:6-7). While we are called as individuals to live in obedience before God (Rom. 6:1-4, Rom. 12:1-2, Col. 3:5-11), there is also an affirmative duty to be part of a COMMUNITY in obedience to God. The Apostle Paul says, "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal. 6:2). Christians are to be "kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other" being "imitators of God" (Eph. 4:31-5:2). In short, we are to be together.

The New Testament is also filled with numerous "one another" commands. We are to be "devoted to one another" in love, "honor one another," "live in harmony with one another," be at peace with one another, and so on (see Rom. 12:10, 16; 14:13, 19; 15:7, 14; I Cor. 6:7, 7:5, 12:25, etc.)

Likewise, the author of Hebrews commands us to meet together, for the purpose of spurring one another to love and good deeds. These things cannot be accomplished from behind a television screen.

As the church of Christ, we also have practical obligations to one another's souls. In my church we speak of formative and corrective church discipline. Formative discipline is inherent in the preaching and teaching of the word and the exercise of church ministries. The goal is to conform ourselves to the image of Christ.

Corrective discipline occurs when a member is found in sin and the church seeks his/her repentance and restoration. One problem with Dr. Schuller's plan is that it makes corrective discipline impossible. How are elders in California going to care for the souls of viewers in south Florida, or London?

But discipline is largely ignored in the church anyway, as I noticed in this article in the Louisville Courier Journal. According to the C-J, a local man, Kevin Talley, scored a centerfold layout with Playgirl magazine in the spring of 2005. The Playgirl spread brought a small amount of local fame to Talley, who attended several red-carpet affairs during the Kentucky Derby festival. Talley also spent weekends signing pictures of himself and copies of Playgirl at a seedy local establishment.

In December, Talley received an email from Playgirl editor in chief Jill Sieracki indicating that he been voted Playgirl's Man of the Year. He was offered a cover and photo spread, a contract worth an estimated $25,000 to $30,000.

Talley ultimately turned down the offer, after asking "What Would Jesus Do?" Really. Here is how the C-J tells it:

Talley also considered his faith. Baptized at Southeast Christian Church in 1996, Talley attends Saturday evening services. As he grappled with how to proceed, he thought back to what he'd been taught in the church.

"We are all given challenges in our life that we can overcome if we just ask for help. I'm definitely not a holy roller, but it became more and more evident that this wasn't the right path," Talley said.

"I've got my morals. I know what's right and what's wrong in my world."

Baring it all -- again -- was decidedly the wrong thing to do, Talley decided.


But don't misunderstand. Talley isn't sorry he posed. "Would I do it all again? Yes, because I didn't know (then) what I know now about myself."

Southeast Christian Church, where Talley is a member, is a mammoth local mega-church, complete with a retreat center, 400-person chapel, newspaper, and racquetball courts. When asked about Talley's previous involvement with Playgirl, Southeast administrator Cindee Coffee said that while they were disappointed, "We're encouraged that he is attending Southeast, growing spiritually and beginning to make wiser choices."

While church discipline takes a back seat in our Arminian dominated churches, America’s religious leaders are discussing weightier matters. A group of 86 evangelical bigwigs issued a "call to action" on global warming. At a press conference in Washington, "the signers urged U.S. lawmakers to pass a law requiring that emissions of carbon dioxide be reduced."

Among those signing the statement were several Southern Baptist leaders, including pastor Rick Warren, Timothy George, dean of Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School and David Dockery, president of Union University. Hmm, just think of all the trees that could have been spared if the "Purpose Driven Life" had never seen the light of day. Other signers included Todd Bassett, national commander of The Salvation Army; Paul Cedar, chairman of the Mission America Coalition; Jack Hayford, president of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel; David Neff, editor of Christianity Today; Ron Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action; and Richard Stearns, president of World Vision.

The climate initiative was undertaken after other prominent Evangelicals sent a letter to the National Association of Evangelicals urging that no official possition be taken on global warming because there is disagreement among on the severity of the problem. Signers included James Dobson, head of Focus on the Family; Charles Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries; the Rev. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention; Richard Roberts, president of Oral Roberts University; Donald Wildmon, head the American Family Association; the Rev. Louis Sheldon, head of the Traditional Values Coalition.

Finally, there is John Hagee. In the bizarro world inhabited by the likes of Hagee, American foreign policy is driven by striped-pants Arabists who have an anti-Israel, and probably anti-Semitic bias. To stem the anti-Israeli predisposition of American institutions and defeat the various pro-Palestinian parties that are obviously dominating the scene, Hagee has teamed up with the likes of Benny Hinn, Rod Parsley, and Jerry Falwell to launch Christians United for Israel (CUFI).

CUFI, says Hagee, will be a "Christian version of AIPAC [the American Israel Public Affairs Committee]. The goal is to organize Christians to put pressure on Washington "to stop pressuring Israel to give up land for peace."

A 2002 analysis by economist Thomas Stauffer, which likely won't interest General Hagee and company, calculated that since 1973, Americans have poured $1.6 trillion dollars into Israel. Yeah, sounds like they're getting a raw deal to me.

So there you have it. To be a Christian in this day and age, one can attend a giant church on Saturday night, or simply watch the festivities on the tube, and have no contact with other believers or church officers. Posing nude once for all the world to see is troubling and disappointing, but surely no cause for church discipline. I mean really, didn’t Jesus have a relaxed attitude about sin? As long as we’re taking care of the important matters, like sending letters to your congressman expressing support for onerous environmental regulation or demanding perpetual war on behalf of another nation, everything will be just fine.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Disinformation in the Times

Leading up to the Iraq war, the front page of the NY Times became a transmission belt for Judith Miller to rewrite Pentagon press releases warning breathlessly of the specter of Iraqi WMDs.

Now, Paul Craig Roberts says the Times is repackaging Bureau of Labor Statistics press releases as well, parroting the administration line that everything is just swell. For example, this Times article breathlessly reports that, "The unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in four and a half years in January, the government reported today, as the economy added construction, education, health and other jobs." Ah, those commiepinkolyinglibs in the mainstream media. They're always out to get Republicans.

Wondering exactly when journalists lost their curiosity, Roberts puts a different spin on the numbers:

The export and import-competitive sectors of the US economy have been tanking for a long time. To keep the story manageable, let’s just go back to January 2001. The latest BLS payroll jobs report says that January 2006 is now the 61st month that the US economy has been unable to create any jobs except jobs in domestic nontradable services, most of which are low paid. Of the 194,000 private sector jobs created in January, 46,000 were in construction (and most likely went to Mexican immigrants, both legal and illegal) and 136,000 were in domestic services: Financial Activities (essentially credit agencies) account for 21,000. Administrative & Waste Services account for 17,600. Health Care & Social Assistance account for 37,500. Waiters, Waitresses and Bartenders account for 31,000. Wholesalers account for 15,100.

There were 7,000 new jobs in manufacturing in January, but the total number of manufacturing jobs in January 2006 is 48,000 less than in January 2005. Over the past five years, millions of manufacturing jobs have been lost. At the rate of 7,000 new manufacturing jobs per month, the lost manufacturing jobs over the past five years would not be regained for 34 years.


The unemployment rate is a notoriously inaccurate barometer in that it cannot account for those who have given up looking for jobs, who are no longer considered part of the workforce, nor can it take account of the "underemployed," i.e., those with engineering degrees displaced by the latest graduate from Cal Tech--The Calcutta Institute of Technology--who are now looking for jobs at Wal-Mart.

Scaring the Kiddies

Coming soon to a public school near you, "The Day After Tomorrow," or maybe season 4 of "24."

Emulating "Burt the Turtle" and the "Duck and Cover" movies of the 1950's, the Department of Homeland Security has initiated a $9.6 million "Ready" campaign directed at teaching 8-to-12-year-olds how to prepare for a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other emergency.

The program features "an adventurous mountain lion mascot named Rex, a website (www.ready.gov) and classroom teaching materials being sent to 135,000 middle school teachers in the nation's 25 largest metropolitan areas."

So instead of teaching middle-schoolers biology or (gads) Latin, the Feds are teaching American youngsters to be afraid, and seek their security from the benevolent State.

Another Hitler?

Anti-Americanism is on the rise all over the world thanks in large part to the speak loudly and wield a big stick nature of the Bush Doctrine. In Latin America, leftists of various stripes have been elected, in part as a reaction to the overweening hemispheric hegemony of the American Empire.

If you don't watch too much television, you will likely recall the recent imbroglio caused by Pat Robertson's remarks on the 700 Club regarding Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez. Robertson said, "We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

Well, it turns out that Brother Pat may have just been conveying a prophetic revelation, something like the time God told him to endorse Bush I over Pat Buchanan.

Speaking at the National Press Club, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld compared the rise of Chavez with that of Adolph Hitler. Rumsfeld said, "He's a person who was elected legally — just as Adolf Hitler was elected legally — and then consolidated power and now is, of course, working closely with Fidel Castro and Mr. Morales and others." The argumentum ad Hitlerum is the first step on the path to regime change. Next, be on the lookout for pieces in The Weekly Reader, er, Standard from Stephen Hayes telling us that "radical Islamists" are cozying up to Chavez and soon WMDs might be whizzing out of Caracas headed for downtown Miami.

Perhaps ala Woodrow Wilson we should be teaching those poor, benighted fools how to elect good men.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Real State of the Union

In case you missed the State of the Union Tuesday evening, here is a quick synopsis.

1) Freedom--still on the march.
2) Isolationism--a menace lurking in the shadows. (Although, one wonders what on earth our born-again Wilsonian president is talking about.)
3) Domestic "surveillance" (please don't call it "spying")--still a necessary ingredient to winning the "war on terror," or, as they're calling it now, "The Long War."
4) The economy--stronger than ever.
5) Deficits--what deficits?
6) Free trade and open borders--still a vital element of American exceptionalism.

To all of which I say, pish posh. Here's the "real deal" about life here in these United States. Caution, you're about to enter a "No-Spin" zone.

On the home front, Paul Craig Roberts continues to chronicle the demise of the American economy:

The state of the union is disastrous. By its naked aggression, bullying, illegal spying on Americans, and illegal torture and detentions, the Bush administration has demonstrated American contempt for the Geneva Convention, for human life and dignity, and for the civil liberties of its own citizens. Increasingly, the US is isolated in the world, having to resort to bribery and threats to impose its diktats. No country any longer looks to America for moral leadership. The US has become a rogue nation.

...Median household income has fallen for a record fifth year in succession. Growth in consumer spending has resulted from households spending their savings and equity in their homes. In 2005 for the first time since the Great Depression in the 1930s, American consumers spent more than they earned, and the government budget deficit was larger than all business savings combined. American households are paying a record share of their disposable income to service their debts.

Globalization is wiping out the American middle class and terminating jobs for university graduates, who now serve as temps, waitresses and bartenders. But the whores among economists and the evil men and women in the Bush administration still sing globalization’s praises.

The state of the nation has never been worse. The Great Depression was an accident caused by the incompetence of the Federal Reserve, which was still new at its job. The new American job depression is the result of free trade ideology.


Meanwhile, the red-hot housing market is beginning to stall, meaning that the big piggybank American consumers have been tapping is about to run dry: "The economy only grew at a 1.1% rate last quarter... Last month saw a steep drop in the sales of existing houses, down 5.7%. That means they’ve been falling at a 36% annual rate for the last three months. The backlog of unsold houses is now 25% greater than it was a year ago. The median price for a house in America fell in December - 4% below its August peak. If consumers are going to keep on spending, we don’t know what they’re going to keep on spending with."

In case you missed it, Alan Greenspan is heading for the door--just in time. Pat Buchanan writes that while the elites heap praise upon Greenspan, the hosannas may be misplaced: "While the economy appears healthy, a disease is eating away inside, a disease that Dr. Greenspan has been treating with oxycontin. The chairman, they say, was a friend to presidents and kept them happy and himself in power by the greatest expansion of money and credit in history. And just as the easy-money Fed policies of the Coolidge-Hoover era led to the crash of ‘29, a day of reckoning is ahead."

With a negative savings rate, ballooning federal and trade deficits, and a coming demographic explosion of oldsters, things don't look so great. Well, we can always keep borrowing from the Chinese to buy the goods they're selling us, right? Isn't that how it's supposed to work?

Take a look at this report, and you will see that since the 2000 election, median income has flat-lined, the poverty rate has increased, and the number of uninsured Americans has continued to climb. Not exactly a record to boast about.

Of course, immigration is one primary component creating growing inequality, rising health care costs, increasingly sub-standard education, and the general diminution of the American nation-state. How is the administration doing on that issue? According the Center for Immigration Studies, "Between January 2000 and March 2005, 7.9 million new immigrants (legal and illegal) settled in the country, making it the highest five-year period of immigration in American history." Nearly one-half of the post-2000 arrivals were illegals. So much for border security. But wait, didn't 9/11 "change everything?"

Well, so maybe things aren't that great at home, but haven't you heard that, as the president says, "our nation is committed to an historic, long-term goal -- we seek the end of tyranny in our world?" Isn't that going well? Didn't they just have elections in Iraq?

According to a brief statistical overview from Knight Ridder, the situation in Iraq leaves much to be desired. In the past year, insurgent attacks have increased, oil production has decreased, and unemployment still hovers around 40%. As Al Gore might say, "Everything that should be UP is DOWN, and everything that should be DOWN is UP." I know, I should stop being so negative because things will definitely improve in 2006. Of course, by the end of 2006, we may have also invaded Iran and Syria, but that's another matter for another time.

"Yes," my conservative Christian brethren say, "things aren't going as well as hoped in Iraq, but we did get Alito. Even you were happy about that." OK, I admit that I am hopeful about Alito--though less so after his first decision, where he sided with the Court's libs in stopping an execution in Missouri.

So how stands the state of our union? You decide.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

House Cleaning

Jon Luker has resurrected Polemics and asked me to contribute. As I don't have that much time, I will mostly post short bits over at Polemics and continue my usual ranting and raving here at Dow Blog and over at The Backwater Report.

Everyone is finally starting to feel better at the Dow home. It turns out that all three boys are strep carriers, so I guess we've got much fun in our future.

Also, it looks like Kathy and I will begin homeschooling in the fall. Many thanks to all those who have provided information, encouragement, and suggestions.

Finally, I can't resist posting this comment from R. J. Rushdoony:

Modern politics, because it is premised on a false doctrine of man, is inescapably anti-Christian in its character. It will work to subvert Christianity, either explicitly or implicitly, consciously or unconsciously. At present, the basic choice which confronts the Christian voters is not one of basic philosophy but of degrees of adherence to that philosophy. Every political party rests on non-Christian principles, and the only real question is, which party is least systematic in its anti-Christian philosophy?


I don't consider myself a Theonomist, but I really don't understand some of my Baptist friends who deny themselves the pleasure of reading Rushdoony.